I chose getting tested for Coronavirus over going to my grandmother’s funeral. Sounds strange, even to type. Nonetheless: after being forced into that decision, I may as well share what I learnt about what it’s like to be tested for Coronavirus in Australia – some of which I had no idea about before I arrived at the testing station.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take it back to the beginning. After enjoying a friend’s birthday lunch on Sunday, I began the week per usual. What I didn’t know, at that point, was the birthday boy from said lunch was actually positive for COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Great present, I know.
The birthday boy wouldn’t find out until the following Saturday. He immediately called the 12 guests from his lunch and everyone he had been in contact with, however, six-plus days had passed and hundreds – including an entire wedding – has potentially been exposed to the virus.
I wasn’t too worried about myself. However, having flown from Sydney to Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix and a number of other events, if I had it, it was highly likely that I could have given the virus to not only my family but also a number of clients and friends along the way.
What was most inconvenient was the fact I discovered the news about 15 minutes before my recently departed grandmother’s funeral. That meant I was going to have to take a pass on the event on the off chance I was infected, and head directly to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.
I had not been feeling well during the week but I assumed it was the weekend’s frivolities rather than COVID 19. Still, I took myself immediately off as care of duty for the community and got tested ASAP to ensure I didn’t kill off any more family members.
After about 30 minutes of looking, I finally found the closest testing facility in Victoria. Still not sure why it took so long to find this simple information. After downloading some NSW Health documents and reading the YES / NO quiz charts I understood that indeed I needed to get tested.
Upon rolling up to the testing facility I discovered it empty and I was #1 in the queue. Win. I was soon told by a heavily covered up (and kind of useless) security guard that I had to wait 20 minutes while they cleaned the testing facility.
As I waited, the worried souls slowly rolled up, one by one. Some wearing surgical masks, others using Burberry scarfs to cover their mouths and noses. You got the sense everyone was a little embarrassed to be there. I certainly was: how the fuck did this happen?
Anyhow, after waiting patiently and without any order some nice lady told the others that I was first to be there and to go through. This didn’t stop the over-eager pushing in to get tested before others. Mob mentality and panic was strangely in the air.
— Brian G. Drew 🇦🇺👨🔬 (@briandrew101) March 16, 2020
Inside it’s like a school classroom with plastic covered partitions and small booths where staff register your details. You’re made to wash your hand with sanitiser and put on a surgical mask immediately. There’s a very clear blue box marked on the ground, which keeps you a safe distance from everyone.
You give personal details and they’re checked and double-checked before receiving your DIY testing kit. The testing process is projected on screens throughout so there’s no chance of you stuffing it up. One stick in your mouth, the other in your nose. Both go into a small plastic test tube before being sealed and handed over. Interestingly, the staff at no point touch you. They’re incredibly diligent with ensuring your personal details and inform you that you’ll hear in 3-5 days.
If you’re positive you’ll get a phone call promptly, if not you’ll receive an SMS. Right now, I’m on four days since the test and friends (now up to 3 people positive – all attendees at said wedding) heard the not-so-good news within 48 hours. Their symptoms have been minimal and they’re riding it out in isolation at home, so that should provide some relief to some.
In the few days since getting tested, authorities have encouraged people with no symptoms not to get tested – even if you’ve been exposed to someone who tested positive. This ensures only those who are high risk are receiving priority treatment. Interestingly, there’s still no great improvement on where to get tested via Google searches, so it’s important to remember NOT to visit the GP, and look up your local hospital.
Judging by those friends affected, if you’re healthy then symptoms will hopefully be minimal. But doing your part by reducing spread is still paramount. It doesn’t help with the fact I skipped any last celebration of my grandmother’s life… but apparently that is life.