Vendor Dave Martin’s unsure if he’s had Covid-19 as he can’t get a test

Like many others in poverty, the Hammersmith seller has had symptoms but has no way of checking if he’s contracted Covid-19. The heat is still on the Government to meet targets of 100,000 tests per day by the end of this week

Hammersmith vendor Dave Martin has been suffering from coronavirus-like symptoms for weeks – but can’t know if he has had the deadly virus as he is unable to get a test.

The Government is facing a race against time this week to meet their self-imposed target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of April.

Tests are now available for patients in hospital with suspected cases of the virus and care home residents as well as the NHS and care staff treating them. Emergency workers and all essential workers and their families are also supposed to be able to get a test.

The doctor thought that I did have it. It would be nice to be tested

The military have been called in to launch pop-up testing sites around the country after the website for frontline staff to sign up for testing was inundated with requests following its Friday launch.

And with testing not yet readily available to the general public, people on the margins, like Dave, have been struggling to find out if they have had the virus or not, leaving them in lockdown limbo.

Dave, who has underlying health problems, told The Big Issue that he had been suffering symptoms for six weeks and after consulting doctors he has been in total isolation in a North London flat for two weeks.

“I’ve had some sort of virus – this is the sixth week that I’ve had it,” said the 58-year-old vendor, who has been selling the magazine outside Tesco in Hammersmith for almost a decade before the lockdown. “Obviously with a virus you can’t do anything, you just have to wait it out.

“When I was last in hospital I was told to isolate for two weeks. I haven’t been tested for coronavirus but from the results of other tests, the doctor thought that I did have it. It would be nice to be tested.

“There’s only so much they can do for you in hospital. I take my vitamins and try to eat healthily, I almost feel like anything is worth a try.

“I’ve been coughing up brown stuff and in the last couple of days it has got worse and my neck has been swollen. And I have the other underlying stuff as well. It’s a bit scary, I don’t want to find out that I’ve got the dreaded C.”


If you pay for the magazine you should always take it. Vendors are working for a hand up, not a handout.

The coronavirus pandemic came at a particularly bad time for Dave as his artwork had been featured in a prestigious exhibition alongside the world-famous street artists Ben Eine, Charming Baker and more before the lockdown curtailed it.

Since then, the artist has been isolating on his own while being supported with cash and supermarket vouchers from The Big Issue to cover bills and rent.

Once he is over his current symptoms, Dave has plans to make more art pieces – but, most of all, he is looking forward to displaying pieces and selling the magazine on his pitch as well as seeing his loyal customers.

Dave Martin
Dave Martin art
Dave uses colours and card to create his art pieces

That’s why he has made a video to be shared by the security guard at the Tesco store where he sells the magazine.

“I was telling people on my pitch that I was hobnobbing with world-famous street artists when I was in the exhibition,” Dave added. “So I’ve come up in the world – from starting to make art when I was 17 to going to exhibitions, it’s like where am I going to go from here! People really do like my art, I think like the colours more than anything.

“I’m missing my pitch and my customers like hell. I’ve gone from knowing like 200 people to nothing. You have to try and keep yourself busy otherwise you’d go mad. Going to work filled my day and got me out.

“I’ve known my customers for years and when I go on my pitch they all welcome me and we have a laugh and a joke and I’m sure they’ll be missing me. I want to say that I’ll be back at some point and it will be really nice to see them. Don’t worry about me.”

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Image: Louise Haywood-Schiefer