Wednesday 18 August 2021

Testing, testing: Everything's Gonna be Alright

A quick and time-sensitive post, which I hope will serve to inform, reassure and possibly even persuade.

It's all about testing for Covid-19, and specifically about the oft-maligned lateral flow tests which have become so familiar to many of us. I felt moved to write up and share some thoughts here and on Facebook because I have today (18-08-21) done my twice-weekly lateral flow test with one of the new-style kits for the first time. 

I had heard that there was a new version coming soon, but hadn't realised they were being issued until I opened a new pack, received yesterday.

The new version is significantly different to the ones which have become so familiar, and a significant improvement from what I can see: 

  • no need to swab in the mouth, which for me has always been the most uncomfortable bit. Just once in each nostril, twisting x5 each side.
  • the extraction tube is pre-filled with the fluid, so no need to "decant". It has a peelable top, making it rather reminiscent of the insulin pen needles, so familiar to diabetes peeps.
  • the swab is a bit shorter, more robust-feeling and was to me less irritating in the nose.
  • the test cassette looks different, but has the same functionality (although on mine today, I couldn't get my phone's QR reader to recognise the code, so had to enter it manually).
  • the extraction tube holder is a small, reusable plastic plinth, not the rather large and ungainly cardboard box.
  • 4 drops not 2 on the cassette, then ready in 15 minutes, not 30.

So this morning's test felt like a re-learning experience, but once we get used to it, these will be very easy to do, and can become as much a part of daily routine as cleaning teeth, and just as easy.

I'm not sure how widely available these new-style tests are - I always get mine by doing an online order via the NHS app, which is always a quick and flawless process, with next-day delivery, but if you haven't used a new style test yet, I hope this post gives you cause for some small optimism (I am far too easily excited by novelties).

And finally a bit of shameless pontificating: if you haven't been a regular LF test user, I am a firm believer and highly recommend it. They may not be 100% reliable, but are surely a whole lot better than not testing, and I find it reassuring to be told twice a week that I am unlikely to be infected as we all get out and mix more.

We keep being told that we are at or near a pivotal point in this pandemic, but I have to say that to me it really feels like it right now: The opening up and deregulation of a month ago has not led to the apocalyptic infection rates that so many keyboard warrior experts were all too quick to predict, and although the daily rate remains high and hospitalisation and death rates are still alarming, we appear at the moment to be getting tantalisingly close to striking the balance between hiding from and living with the virus. I am not convinced that New Zealand's much-vaunted "Zero-Covid" approach is sustainable in the longer term, and their decision yesterday to lock down the whole country for one confirmed case cannot go on forever if they want to remain part of the world's trading and tourism community. 

I am, and always have been, shamelessly rose-tinted in my view of life, so anything I say about the pandemic or anything else has to be seen through that filter, but I am keen to get on with my life. I shall remain cautious in my approach to what I do and where I go, but as I am not really a fan of crowded noisy places, there is not much that I want to do that is particularly risky. I am desperate to get along to the Unibol Stadium to watch the Mighty Wanderers again, and I have plans for visits to London for exciting events in the coming few weeks, which include rail travel and hotel stays, but I won't be found in a crowded nightclub or a busy bar. I shall continue to wear a face covering for the foreseeable future on trains and in shops, for my own and others' reassurance, but I refuse to live in fear, and shall not waste energy getting annoyed about those who choose not to wear a mask.

So - getting back to the purpose of this post - I hope that regular and easy testing will prove to be a small price to pay for the freedom to begin to live a little again.

And a song title for this post? How about a forgotten 90's classic Everything's Gonna Be Alright by Sweetbox, still one of the cleverest samplings of classical music in my opinion, and a great message for a vision of a post-pandemic life.

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