Do you know who is going to be swabbing you for signs of Covid-19? The private sector gears up to knock on doors in Cornwall

Posted By on 29th September 2020

By Richard Whitehouse and Anne North

An employment agency has recruited people to work as doorstep Covid-19 testers in Cornwall.

Reed posted the advert on LinkedIn and on its own website for testers to work in the Penzance – Land’s End area.  The positions have now all been filled and are intended to contribute to a national Infection Survey for the Office of National Statistics.

While almost anything related to Covid-19 is interesting, what makes this recruitment campaign particularly unusual is that it does not appear to have anything to do with the National Health Service.

The advert is similar to others posted by Reed which confirm that the initial employer is the national chemist chain, Boots.  Despite its familiar presence in many UK towns, Boots is in fact an American-owned private health and beauty retailer.

In May, Boots sought to recruit swab testers as volunteers, sparking a volley of criticism from trade unions who said that such jobs should be paid.  A month later, former Boots managing director, Elizabeth Fagan, became “marketing director” for the government’s much criticised Test and Trace programme.

In July Boots confirmed it was taking part in a pilot scheme to evaluate the effectiveness of testing for people without symptoms of Covid-19.  Other companies taking part include Addison Lee, BT, and Mitie.  The project will also target taxi drivers, cleaners and shop workers.

The Reed advert for Penzance offered £130 a day to successful applicants plus expenses for the job which is for “four or five days a week.”

The post states that the testers will undertake the tests on the doorstep and would not have to enter people’s homes.

It also states that the testers would not be going to households “where we either know or suspect that participants are suffering from Covid-19.”  Testers would also be supplied with PPE.

The advert reads: “Join the fight against COVID-19!

“Reed are proud to support the government’s COVID-19 Infection Survey.  We are looking for flexible people to work with us four or five days a week collecting swab samples from participating households.

The doorstep swab testing will be self-administered

Photo: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

“Successful applicants will visit pre-identified households each day where they will provide a COVID-19 swab test to participants, wait whilst the participant administers the swab test, input participant data and return the completed tests to a designated location.

“Visits will occur across five of seven days and may include weekends and evenings.  For this role you will not enter the household as all will be undertaken on the doorstep.”

Applicants are required to have a driving license and their own vehicle as well as a smartphone.

The advert adds: “You will not be entering households where we either know or suspect that participants are suffering from Covid-19 and appropriate PPE will be provided to you.”

Posted on August 28 the advert states that the roles are temporary and full time.  Reed said today that the jobs are no longer available.

BBC Local Democracy Service