Covid test: An experimental bunny rabbit without the lipstick

Nathan Kay asks whether the army's Covid-19 testing programme will really save the day.

Last week, I took part in the army’s Covid-19 testing programme. I was a guinea pig in a new plan set to roll out nationally from November 30 onwards… 

It was a simple test process, to be fair. I approached an army checkpoint where details were added to a government app, including name, address, date of birth and all the essentials. I was sent through to a desk sergeant who gave me some barcoded sticky labels and a swab. I then walked to a booth where I opened the swab packet, gave it two wipes at the back of my throat then up one nostril. I handed the swab and sticker through a hole in the back of the testing booth which was collected by an officer to test. I left. The process from start to finish was very efficient and lasted no longer than eight minutes in total. I received the test results via text and email 30 minutes later.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the government and army did a great job with the design of this process, and when it rolls out to the nation it should be an easy measure to implement. My only note is that I didn’t have to queue, there was nobody else there. But I think if the queues are long, that’s where the problems could arise. We’ll have to wait and see. 

In all honesty, I don’t understand how this process will benefit anyone. The sheer number of tests alone will only lead to an increase of positive results which in turn will keep us all in lockdown. Figures show that 1 in 170 people have so far caught the virus and only 0.1% of those cases were fatal. We are in lockdown for a virus that during some months, according to official national statistics, has killed far less people than the flu and pneumonia. The validity of the tests themselves are also being called into question, and a common cold can cause a false positive result. 

Luckily, I tested negative otherwise I would have been forced into a 10-day home quarantine. I’ve been there and done that, at the very beginning of the pandemic. I was stuck travelling from one country to another and was forced into a 14-day home quarantine. It felt like house arrest and did nothing for my mental state or weight (I ate too much and did no exercise). It was a gruesome affair, one which I wouldn’t visit on even my own worst enemy. 

The first UK lockdown was miserable. Not only did it cripple the economy, but left those struggling with their mental health teetering on the edge. Luckily, I don’t suffer with any mental health issues, but I found isolating alone extremely difficult. The scales tipped, I felt like a social outcast, and missed my friends. A weekly family Zoom quiz was the only light relief from sheer boredom, frustration and stuffing my face. I can only imagine how those with depression or other mental health issues coped. Now, the second wave is here and we’re going through it all again.

I previously wrote a piece asking whether a coronavirus death is more appealing than this existence. I still ask the same question today. The government must allow us to live our lives, allow us to take some sense of responsibility for ourselves. If not, the nation’s mental health will suffer, the economy will crash and there won’t be much hope for moving forward into 2021 and beyond.

Photo credit: British Army

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Nathan Kay

Nathan has had thousands of articles published globally and has worked for many leading publications. His work has been featured in The Mail on Sunday, CNN, MailOnline, Grazia (UK), Daily Mail, Metro (US), The Sunday People, Ahlan!, and others. He graduated with a degree in Media & Society and holds a postgraduate qualification in Psychological Therapies from Queen Mary University in London.

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