I got a Covid test after an outbreak in my area and thought it would be chaos

It’s been tough trying to get my head around all the Covid facts, figures, and stats.

It just seems at every corner there’s a new graph suggesting we’ve plunged into the abyss and will never return, despite things allegedly ‘improving’.

So you can imagine how much my heart sank when I learnt there’s been an outbreak of the South African variant in my borough, and the neighbouring one – requiring all residents to get tested.

I couldn’t help but feel every time we take a step forward, we have to take two steps back. But maybe I’m just a pessimist.

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Anyway, I put my emotional bankruptcy to one side, and booked my slot, ready to take my PCR test the following day at 12.30pm.

That day (April 14) I rocked up at the local testing site (a primary school hall, which also doubles up as a ballot station during elections), and admittedly, I was slightly sceptical.

It’s not that I had any hesitations of getting Covid itself, it’s more that in the back of my mind, I thought I’d have a disaster during the test, and embarrass myself.

To be honest I don’t think anyone would care either way, it’s more a case of just getting the test so my council could tick me off the list and say I’m not disease-ridden.

It was a sunny day, and I dare say the walk there to find out whether I had a potentially fatal disease wasn’t too bad, but once I got there everything changed.

The view from outside the testing centre
The view from outside the testing centre
(Image: Rafi Mauro-Benady)

The queue spilt outside the testing centre for obvious social-distancing reasons, but that wasn’t all.

It was tense, very tense. Everyone looked slightly on edge – I think it was the ‘what if’ factor.

And by ‘what if’ I mean chances are, we were all Covid-free, but it’s the ‘what if I’m the one’ part that I think was playing on people’s minds. There seems to be a stigma about having Covid, and it feels as if it’s almost become a social faux pas to contract.

Fortunately, I don’t have it by the way in case you were wondering.

Despite my mum promising me that the queue was “literally three minutes”, after 20 minutes of standing in the baking sun I was ushered into the hall, and sent to a pod to carry out my test.

So far things had gone very smoothly, so kudos to the state for handling mass testing after having handled the pandemic so badly before.

It was weird looking at my test. The swab and vial were in a thin plastic bag, and I couldn’t help but think ‘are these flimsy bits of plastic really what’s stood between us being overrun by Coronavirus?!’

Deeper philosophical thinking aside, ‘yes’ was the answer to my question.

Taking the test itself was slightly awkward though I must say. The first thing you’re to do, as instructed by one of the workers there, was to put the swab on your tonsils and hold it there for 10 seconds.

It was literally the worst 10 seconds of my life, as I duly found out I have a bad gag reflex and almost threw up on the spot. But I’m a trooper, you see, so I managed not to barf and awkwardly held the swab at the back of my throat, and just let my eyes water like a baby.

I must say though, putting the swab up my nose was equally as weird. I never thought I’d find myself stood in a primary school hall, acting as a disease prevention centre, shoving a swab up my nostril.

I guess that’s 2021 for you.

The whole thing was over in about 10 minutes, and after confirming my details and availing myself to a comical amount of hand sanitizer, I was out of there and back into the real world.

So what did I make of it all?

I thought it would be chaos, just like the government’s handling of everything else in this pandemic.

However I’ll admit it: I was wrong.

I was really, really impressed with the efficiency of it all. No technical hiccups, nobody was passing out with fear, and no ‘oh sorry that test should be for the person in the cubicle next door’.

It was smooth, and it reminded me that better things are to come, and that these things can be overcome should the forces that be get their act together.

But there was one thing that occurred to me as I was leaving the site, so make what you want of the following – and it’s how nasty calling each variant by its place of origin is.

We’ve all heard of the ‘Indian variant’, the ‘South African variant’, and the ‘Brazilian variant’.

And underneath it all, I feel there’s an unintended, nasty, divisiveness. I feel that when you tie a nation’s name with a disease, it can lead unconscious biases that could resonate in the long-term, and even potentially lead to a spike in hate crimes.

For example, Donald Trump infamously referred to Covid-19 as the ‘China virus’, so when we limit ourselves to calling the strains by their place of origin, then it should come as no surprise if we start seeing a surge in hate-crimes against people from those nations.

But that’s just me – share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Essex Live