It’s Sunday afternoon.
Harriet has been released from Lockdown at the Care Home and she is unable to go back to work there until she has 1. Been tested for Covid-19 and 2. Been given the all-clear. As several of our family are designated as ‘Key Workers’ in the Covid-19 pandemic, we have each received an email to attend a testing station today, based near Manston, Kent.
Each of us, even if we don’t actually catch the disease, are in contact with those who either might have it or, as in my case, most definitely have had it and died as a cause of it.
Harriet gets into the car and immediately turns her nose up at Alfie’s attire. “What are you wearing?” she sneers at him.
“I had to put something on quickly and this tracksuit is comfy,” he responds.
“Well, I’m wearing something a little more edgy,” she declares!
Edgy? To get tested for Covid-19? This isn’t a fashion parade Harriet. No, but this is Harriet! Evidently full make-up is de rigueur when getting tested…
It’s 14:45. I swing Charlotte’s car towards the ten-foot-high, reinforced steel mesh gates. Armed Forces personnel wearing combat gear, gloves and facemasks, impede our advancement. As we near the first soldier, she asks me to raise my side window to maintain her safety and by default, ours. She scans our QR codes as we are instructed to present them, one by one, to her and then she proceeds to shout directions at me from behind her mask and through the glass which is now blocking my ability to hear.
It’s quite amazing how much information we pick up by our ability to see another person’s mouth. Whether it be the shape of the words, the embouchure of the lips, the smile, (or lack of), that accompanies the spoken word, our understanding and perception are aided by our ability to focus on the movement of the lower echelons of our facial accoutrements.
With gesticulations and the brief snippets I glean from her, I am aware that I need to proceed forwards, then turn left and pull up at the first desk on the right. In other words, follow the next soldier who is waving me on and to the left!
The desk on the right is manned by a further two chaps in full combat and PPE gear. As we pull up at the desk, I lower my side window for further instructions only to be told to get it back up. The nice young man waves an A4 laminated sheet at me which conveys his telephone number.
“He’s hot,” says Harriet from the back seat, “I’ll ring him on my phone”.
This she does and, using her phone as a speaker, we are then instructed to present our QR codes once more for scanning. Each of us in turn, having been scanned, receive a plastic bag containing a kit for swabbing our inner recesses, with the next instruction to follow directions given by the fourth member of the team.
We pull into a designated parking bay and, with the aid of a printed guide, perform personal probing into moist recesses of our throat and nasal cavities. Yummy! For 10 seconds we are to twizzle the cotton bud swab stick at the location of our tonsils, or where they would be if we had any – consult diagram given if in doubt. Then for a further 10-15 seconds, we are to insert the same swab stick up a nostril until resistance is felt and twizzle further!
Repeated orifice probations are doing nothing for the mood in our vehicle as we all grimace with distaste at the procedure of inserting a now moist cotton bud up our nose. We’ve all gagged slightly when the swab has been down our throat anyway, but we perform the necessary duties and place our contaminated swabs into screw-top test tubes and label everything up with barcode stickers.
Each kit is then placed into another bag and after being checked by further personnel, we seal the bags and drop them into a plastic container, held towards us at arm’s length, by the final member of the team. We are then free to leave the confines of the testing compound.
As we leave, Harriet, who is now in possession of the ‘hot’ soldier’s number, considers giving him a call to see if he’s free for a date tonight, knowing full-well that the answer will be “no” due to social distancing anyway, but just for the fun of it and in doing so, she will be able to give him her Instagram account details!
Does anyone else think that it’s a good thing to use a visit to the Covid-19 testing facilities as an opportunity to meet someone? Harriet does!
Carry on regardless!