Three weeks ago, I was minding my own business when I got a call from my baby’s nursery (daycare). It was the last thing I’d expected to happen that day.
“You need to collect your child. He has been coughing non-stop today.”
He’s had this cough for about two months. He blatantly picked it up at the nursery. It’s not a “continuous, dry cough” and therefore wasn’t a Covid symptom. But they insisted we got tested and said he couldn’t return to nursery until he’d had a test and seen a doctor.
In this country, those are two very different things. You’re not allowed to go anywhere near a doctor if you’re suspected of having Covid.
So I booked the test. Last time I tried to book a test, they tried to book me into a testing centre in Dumfries and Galloway, which is across a sea, and given that you can’t use public transport with suspected Covid, and given that I don’t own a powerboat, this was utterly ridiculous. But the tests were not making it to Northern Ireland, just like the food didn’t, back in March, despite the fact literally no one here was panic buying.
It gets diverted to the South of England.
I was very surprised that this time, we were able to book two tests immediately (if baba boo had Covid, then my cough must be Covid, too), and not only that, but it was for about 30 minutes’ time.
So we went to the testing centre, which was in a big, empty car park. Everything was marked out with lots of orange cones and there were signs printed out from a computer saying “Covid testing” in black lettering.
Inside the deserted car park, we had to stop at a Portacabin where a member of staff stood at my passenger window and took my phone number then handed me two tests. Then, I had to roll up the windows and answer the phone, where the same member of staff told me, with the muffled audio of someone speaking through a facemask, how to take the PCR tests.
We were the only people in the whole place. You’re generally not allowed to get out of your car once you’ve parked to take a test. However, with a small baby, it is impossible to test him without getting out of the car.
The instructions said the best thing was to hold the swab in the back of your throat for thirty seconds, using the same swab to split that fifteen seconds on each side of your throat. I found that pretty easy. What was harder was following the instructions for a baby. See, for a baby, you have to stick the swab up their nose (“until you feel resistance”) for fifteen seconds per nostril. Only, after about two seconds, my baby, who had been fast asleep, woke up because his breathing was obstructed, then he used his excellent baby reflexes to fight the swab.
I was actually very proud of him for this, because it showed just how powerful his reflexes are when he perceives his breathing is threatened, even though he’d been asleep. But I could have lived without trying to get this sodding swab up the nose of a screaming infant.
Once you have swabbed, you have to break off half of the stick and put the half with the swab in it into a sealed jar in a sealed bag, which you should have written your name and date of birth on beforehand. So you need a pen. Not that they tell you this when you book the test.
We drove around to the place where you deposit the tests, and the man there checked I’d done it all properly. We had, so we were able to leave immediately and go home, where we had to self-isolate and wait for results.
Thankfully, we both came back negative.
Tips for easier Covid testing with a baby in the UK:
- Do yourself first. It’s really hard to count slowly to fifteen with a baby screaming in your ear.
- Take a pen to write on the sample bags.
- That’s it. It’s not a complicated process at all.
I am a little confused at the emptiness of the testing place just before Christmas, given that allegedly Covid cases were rising hugely at the time. Where were all these people getting tested? I have no idea. I’m just glad we only had to isolate until the test results came through.