Isolation diaries part six: How a runny nose led to a COVID-19 test

By Andrew Johnston

I HAD a lot of fun when I was in Tassie earlier this year writing my isolation diaries.

But I also wasn't sad to see the back of writing them when I returned to Victoria.

But they're back, because I am back in isolation for the next few days after undergoing the swab test for coronavirus on Wednesday.

Now, I don't believe I have the ‘rona.

The reality is, although there have been many cases in Victoria in the past few weeks, we haven't seen one case actually in Echuca since the second wave hit.

But, I have been listening to our premier Daniel Andrews, our chief health officer, and all our medical officials who say if you have symptoms, please go and get yourself tested.

I've taken all the advice on board so far — everywhere I have gone in the past few weeks I have been wearing a mask.

And I've been really happy in recent days to see the number of people and businesses who are wearing masks has massively increased.

In the first week after the premier suggested masks if you couldn't maintain social distancing, I think maybe five per cent of the people I would see in the supermarkets were wearing them. By the end of last week, that number was more like 25 per cent.

I hope it continues to grow, and more of you start to mask up.

These requests come out of a place of trying to look after people, as does the premier's request to get tested if you have symptoms.

Which brings me to Wednesday.

I was feeling fine in the morning, no reason to believe anything was wrong. But, as often happens with cold and flu symptoms, midway through the day I got the sniffles and a bit of a cough.

Again, in my own mind I was fairly certain I was okay.

But, I listened to the advice and made the decision to go and get myself tested.

There were a couple of people sitting at Echuca Regional Health waiting to be tested, all wearing masks, including a young child and their parent.

That was really pleasing to see, because it means lots of people were listening to the advice and getting tested.

I was the first called into the room to be tested.

I've heard the stories, including from my sister first-hand, about what the test was going to be like, so all I could think was ‘don't make a big deal and scare the kid'.

It was a noble idea.

First they swab your throat, which did trip my gag-reflex, but was hardly a major issue. Then came the main event.

The swab went in, and went deeper.

It is not painful experience by any means; I would say its more ticklish than anything. That said, you're not meant to be tickled internally, so it was not a comfortable experience, and led to me letting out a very loud "JESUS CHRIST!".

I made the observation to the person doing my test, who told me this was how most people felt about it.

And that was the experience of the test, which I was told should be back within five days, and I should self-isolate until then. I was told to leave, and as I entered the hallway, I turned back around to the kid, and said: "Doesn't hurt at all, buddy.”

I'm incredibly lucky that not only do I have supportive co-workers, I also have a job where I can pack up my computer and go work from home. If I need some fancy photos in the paper, I can send our photographer to get them, and then do an interview for a story over the phone.

So, now I'm at home, sitting at my computer, writing.

Again, I doubt I'm sick, but it was the right thing to do to get tested.

And, it's the right thing to do to wear a mask.

We've seen since I last wrote an update to this series how quickly things can turn with this condition, and while we have been incredibly lucky in regional Victoria so far to have avoided the brunt of this horrible condition, it could be us next.

So, wash your hands, practise social distancing, wear a mask — and please, if you have even minor symptoms, have the test.

It's a few moments of being uncomfortable for the greater good.

The modelling from the health office says we should be past the peak of the second wave, so we can beat this thing of we all do our bit.

Clichéd as it may be, we are all in this together.