A Reminder of Reality.

The last two weeks have been utterly relentless on the work front, with 14 hour days being the new normal for the time being. It seems to be more of a 'catch-up" than a resurgence in numerous property transactions, with 3 months of marketing being crammed into a single month. That being said, it's still a relief that some sense of "normality" is returning to my routine, and being able to prepare for any eventualities such as local lockdowns or client collapses is the priority for now. We're not out of the woods yet, which was brought firmly to my attention first thing on Monday morning.

My missus has had a bout of "digestive issues" which lasted a bit longer than would normally be expected, and as this was a possible indicator of "The Lurgy", and unsolved by the usual fasting for 24 hours, she decided to take the sensible route of being tested for the virus, and booked herself in at short notice. As part of the household, albeit without symptoms, I too opted to be checked out, as I'm in the position of visiting scores of households on a monthly basis - often containing quite vulnerable people including the elderly, front-line workers, and those with long term health problems. I was on my way to a job some 60 miles from home, which I had to postpone in order to pull over, book a test at the Newcastle Great Park facility, and head there immediately.

For those people who think this whole thing is one, big overblown malarkey, a visit to the drive-in testing centre at Great Park will dispel such nonsense, and act as a sobering reminder that this shit is serious. The queuing system is about a mile long (although thankfully deserted at 10am on a Monday morning when I got there), with a myriad of U-turns, roundabouts, and one-way routes all coned off and marshalled by HV-clad security guys at regular points. I was ordered to remove the dash cam from my windscreen halfway along. The signs directing you forwards lead to a reception station manned by the folks with QR scanners. Everything is done with windows closed, including the confirmation of your identity, nominating whether to have the test conducted by someone else, or yourself (always the former in my opinion), and instructions on where to go. The testing centre is located in the huge Park & Ride facility at Great Park, and consists of seven testing bays - of which two were operating on this particular day. At it's peak, I can imagine the scenes here, with vehicles stretched along the queuing system, and all seven testing bays in use. On this particular day however, it was just me, and a couple of cars behind.

At the testing station - basically a portakabin adjacent to a sturdy Gazebo structure, the dudes and gals in full-on protective gear come out and ask you to lower the window. Your ID is confirmed again, and the testing process is explained. You're given a tissue to blow your nose, and separate long swabs are scraped right at the back of the throat, then right up one of your nostrils - an unusual, though not massively unpleasant sensation. You're given a testing card with reference number on in case of queries, then told that your results will be back within 24 hours. You must remain isolated until that time. 

I wasn't overly concerned about testing positive, as it was unlikely, and as expected we both received the text and email giving a negative result before we'd even got out of bed the following morning. The whole process from booking to result was fast, efficient, extremely well organised, and has the capacity to scale up when demand increases. The temporary testing centres at various points throughout the area have now been shut down, so there are only a few huge facilities running at the minute, but it's nice to know that they're there. I do think that extending test facilities to those without symptoms, but who are working with the general public should be implemented despite the increased cost, as it could identify hot-spots, and halt potential outbreaks a little bit more quickly.

I obviously had to inform my clients of what was happening, and I was a bit worried that I'd be dumped in the eventuality of a positive result and subsequent quarantine. It was straight back to work the following day however, and I discovered that I was actually being used as a marketing tool - a "guaranteed Covid-free" member of their workforce. Silver linings eh?

Brian Young shoots all aspects of the built environment for a range of clients throughout Northern England and the Borders.


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