09 December 2020
One of our clients is keeping a diary during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this latest entry, he shares his experience of the test and trace system and life in a tier 3 area.
Since my last blog we’ve had lockdown 2.0 and then moved to the new Tier 3 system (in Bristol and South Glos anyway). We’ve had announcements of vaccines and mass testing.
This has made me think back to when I had to have a test. Not too long after I returned to Bristol at the end of September, I experienced a number of Covid symptoms and needed to book a test. However, I had no idea what a stressful process this was going to be. I tried over and over again and it kept telling me (if I put in I had no transport that there was nothing available at all), or if I put in that I did have transport (in the hope that my flat mate could transport me), that my nearest test centre with spaces available was somewhere in the middle of Wales about 70 miles away. This was until a friend told my flat mate that they were apparently releasing new tests at 8am in the morning and evening. When I logged on at that time, I was finally able to book a test at a centre I could walk to. I’m lucky that I have a computer and that I am fairly able to navigate it easily and quickly as I had to input a lot of information in a short period of time. Already at 08:05 50 tests had already been taken so if you have any sort of extra needs using computers or just find them difficult to use, you are potentially not going to get a test.
With regards to the test itself, it was challenging. I watched the video several times about how I was meant to take the test and what to expect from a walk-in centre but this didn’t help me. The test centre was set up in a sort of temporary event structure (a glorified marquee) and they just ushered me into a booth and told me to take the test. Due to the marquee structure, noise was reverberating all around the walls and because I was extremely stressed, I couldn’t read the instructions. I sat there trying to remain calm but gradually became more distressed because I didn’t know what to do. I tried to think back to the video but I couldn’t remember it all and it was all becoming jumbled in my head. The words were moving around on the poster on the wall, and the noise was making it impossible for me to concentrate. Eventually, the staff realised I was going to need some support to take the test. They moved me to another tent where there was no one else and it was quiet. I was immediately able to calm down and concentrate on what I needed to do. The staff member talked me through each step and it was fine. I didn’t have any fears over the test itself – I have no inherent problem with medical procedures as long as I understand what is going on, or in the case of a self-test, as long as I know exactly what I have to do so I don’t get it wrong. I think if they had provided some sort of visual aids (like pictures with short words, a visual story) to help people with different needs take the test, it could have really been helpful.
I hope that when they are considering mass testing and vaccinations, they will also consider that while it’s important to get as many people vaccinated or tested as quickly as possible, it’s also important to try not to cause unnecessary distress to people whilst doing so.
So how do we cope going from Lockdown 2.0 to Tier 3? I haven’t read all the guidance in detail but I think a lot of the restrictions are the same. Interestingly, a lot of people that I know now are struggling perhaps more than myself. In some sense, I am used to spending large periods of time at home, using my own time, and not always relying on connection with others to give me energy or lift me up. That’s not to say that I would rather be in lockdown, of course not – but I think in general those who live with chronic health conditions or are used to some sort of isolation have perhaps had some idea of what all this involves when it comes to the lockdown.
The main thing that is important is the continued access to services. I assumed that with lockdown 2.0, all services would again go online and meetings with key workers would no longer be possible. Thankfully this was not the case. I think for me this has made this second lockdown much easier to deal with by having addiction and recovery groups to attend and keep focussed on those goals. Online bits and pieces of volunteering are also starting up again, which is great. We all need goals, distractions and things to focus on beyond Covid-19. It’s definitely gone on longer than I ever imagined and as I think about the year coming to a close in December, I think it’s really important to learn to live with it but not be ruled by it.