Mission Impossible #3: COVID-19 Testing Research Study

It’s the day of the mission.

I’m up early.  Raring to go.  The courier to collect my test is booked.  They have given me a timeslot for the collection of between 9AM and 8PM.  Does that constitute a timeslot?  Eleven hours.  That’s more like a time-chasm.  Nevertheless, I need to be prepared, in case they arrive at 9AM.

500 things in package

I collect my Coronavirus (COVID-19) Home Test kit.  Go into the bathroom.  Close the door.  Deep breath.  Oh, no, deep breath isn’t part of the instructions.  What is it I am meant to do?  Blow my nose and cough.  Check.

I lay out my Agent’s equipment on a clean surface.  Now is the time to open the package containing the medical swab.  It looks a relatively innocuous piece of kit.  I take care not to handle the fluffy end.  My instructions say to swab the back of my throat and then, using the same swab, to stick it up each nostril and twiddle (I am paraphrasing somewhat here for the benefit of the layperson).  The same swab?  It seems rather unhygienic to stick something that’s been down my throat into my nose.  I double check my instructions.  There is no mistake.

500 biohazard in box

I won’t go into the intimate details of the test itself; some information in any mission must be regarded as sensitive, and classified ‘eyes only’.  Perhaps, more details can be released under the 50-year rule at some date in the future.  In the meantime, let me just say: all went well, although I don’t think I managed to stick the swab up my nose the requisite 2.5cm (a surprisingly long distance when it comes to the inside of nostrils).

Test completed, next I had to stick the swab, fluffy-end down in a plastic vial; break off the other end of the swab, and dispose; and then seal the vial, hermetically (my word, not theirs).  The vial is labelled with a barcode provided, and then placed in a plastic, biohazard bag, and sealed.  This bag is also barcoded, and then placed in a small cardboard box, which is then sealed by a security tag.  The entire procedure feels a bit like preparing a package for a game of Pass-the-Parcel, but knowing that the toy you have placed at the centre is going to be a big let-down when it is finally opened.

500 box

I had a little difficulty constructing the final, cardboard mailing box.  It was one of those self-assembly jobs, with lots of folds and tags and bits that don’t seem to go anywhere, but finally the task was completed, and I was able to store the box away in the fridge next to the Covent Garden soup, awaiting collection by my courier, who, needless to say, did not arrive at 9AM.

500 package in fridge

And so my mission is completed.  Now that it is over, there are the inevitable feelings of anti-climax; self-doubts; questions whether I could have done anything differently.

All that is left are the results but, until then, my work is done.

Agent standing down.

© Simon Turner-Tree


Simon Turner-Tree has performed his duty to the best of his abilities.

If you enjoyed reading this, you may like to read some of Simon’s other blogs.


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