NHS test, trace and torture

BC Pires -
BC Pires -


Part II of Sick of ignorance

(continued from Friday)

Read Part I here: PART I

ON WEDNESDAY, August 25, six days into my covid19 infection, my oldest friend, a microbiologist of 40 years’ experience, video-called me on WhatsApp. After talking with – and, more important, looking at – me carefully, he assured me I was not going to die.

Only once before, the time my then-two-year-old son almost died from massive blood loss, had I felt such a tsunami of gratitude to a good medic. (And thanks again, Dr D, for my baby boy being a big man now.)

On the morning of August 28, thinking I’d passed an at-home lateral flow antigen test, I asked my daughter to draw me a celebratory bath before leaving for work. (Later, in brighter light, I would see the faint but clear second red line.)

So I was alone in the flat when I stepped into a hot bath eco-tourists in Dominica might envy. I’d had nothing at all to eat or drink, not even a sip of water, since the evening before. And I was still ill with covid19, despite an apparently negative test.

It was very hot but I stayed in the bath for 20 minutes. And then almost fainted trying to step out of it.

Depleted to the edge of extinction by the virus, the lack of food and drink, and hoist with the petard of my own stubbornness, I stood next to the sink, drifting back and forth between consciousness and collapse, my vision going dark.

Some vestigial animal instinct made me push the bathroom door open a millisecond before I blacked out. The cooler air let me crumple to the floor rather than hit it like a sack of potatoes. I crawled across the wheelbarrow-sized hallway and, for as long as I had lain in the bath, lay gasping on the bed.

I had never felt weaker in my life. The first clear thought: this thing is deadly serious.

On August 31, 11 or 12 days after infection, I finally clearly passed an at-home test and, for the first time, knew in my heart, soul and mind that my old friend was right and I would not fall into the dreaded two per cent of fully vaccinated cases who end up first in the ICU and then the morgue.

Hoping to ace it like I’d passed at-home tests on September 1 and 2, and fly the following Tuesday, I took a National Health Service PCR test at 8 am on Friday, September 3.

To my shock and horror, it came back positive at 5 am on September 4.

And NHS Test and Trace (NHS T&T) required me to lock myself up all over again, until September 8. I had not been contagious, by NHS guidelines, since August 30. But another five days were added to my sentence. (Pity anyone locked up anywhere. And I was alone, not with nine or ten other men; and a bucket; and flies, mosquitoes and overwhelming body heat. My cell was rather closer to the set of Rear Window than the PoS Prison Remand Yard.)

Over several days I spoke to a dozen NHS T&T operatives (more accurately CSRs). One was deeply sympathetic but none could help.

The Vote Leave, Brexit-First Government of England has budgeted £37 billion to NHS T&T and spent £13.5 billion thereof in the first year but, from my own direct and bitter experience, it’s all gone on make-as-eef jobs. If an NHS T&T CSR could not read the answer to my question in plain language on the card in front of them, they could do nothing.

In a move that would make a PNM, UNC or DLP government blush for shame, the Vote Leave English Government responded to our time’s greatest public health emergency by funnelling public money to private companies, whose interest is not in minimising the spread of the virus but in maximising shareholder dividends.

This is the nexus that will kill us, the point where fear, stupidity and belligerence meet, where moronic people who click a link on their Tantie Doris’s Facebook page genuinely believe they know more about covid19 than Dr Fauci. Just as they can somehow convince themselves they have "won" a Facebook exchange in which they have been humiliated, they think they can troll the virus itself with disinformation, if they believe their own lies fervently enough.

They are the ones who will kill us all. They are the ones who made me sick. And I’m sick and tired of them.

BC Pires was literally sick of and is now figuratively tired of ignorance. Look out for the conclusion of this series in Monday’s Newsday


"NHS test, trace and torture"

More in this section