During much of the pandemic, Cheltenham, like the rest of the South West, had relatively low infection rates, notwithstanding the super spreader event that was the horse racing festival in March 2020. The vaccine rollout went well. My Covid story started well too. I received my second jab in May, a week earlier than my elder brother who lives in London.
Being fully jabbed makes travel easier, and as restrictions eased and flight prices remained low, I booked a week away in Crete in early autumn in an isolated house on the edge of a tiny village. I thought I might check if the sea was still closed, in Dominic Raab’s immortal words. Sun, solitude and delicious fresh food beckoned. Then things started to go wrong.
The day before I was due to fly, my daughter tested positive on a lateral flow test. Immediately as a family we went for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests at the drive through testing centre at Cheltenham North Rugby Club. Not knowing when the results would arrive, I postponed my flight to the following Saturday and stayed at home.
When the results did come through, we had all tested negative, so I duly took the rearranged flight from Bristol airport to Chania.
I didn’t feel too great in Crete, but I did regular lateral flow tests, the results were negative, and I reluctantly flew back after a week to cold, wet and windy UK.
Being fully vaccinated there was no requirement to self-isolate on return, but I did have to take a paid-for Day 2 PCR test. I still wasn’t feeling great, but the result when it came through was a shock:
I had tested positive!
How could this be so? I’d just spent a week by myself self-isolating by default in a house in a field in the middle of nowhere after a negative PCR test. I drove myself to Bristol airport, everyone on the airport bus from long term airport parking to the terminal wore masks, there was lots of space at the airport to socially distance, I had a row to myself on the plane. Crete itself has a strong mask policy and everyone follows it.
Whatever, somehow I must have picked up the virus so I started 10 days of self isolation. I slept 12 hours a day, had two calls from Test and Trace and took a lot of paracetamol tablets. And I got a text message from GOVUK:
“You recently took a PCR test on 28/09/2021. There may have been an issue with the result. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
“We apologise for any inconvenience caused” makes it sound like you are on a train that is 10 minutes late.
I wasn’t greatly inconvenienced, to be honest. It’s not very comfortable having mild Covid symptoms but if you’re lucky enough to have a bedroom, Wi-Fi and someone to leave regular meals and the odd bottle of wine outside your door, it’s doable.
I survived my Covid story, but many of those reported 43,000 false negative tests, and indeed millions who have self-isolated throughout this pandemic won’t have had it so easy if they fell ill – cramped conditions, abusive partners, money worries, children uncared for, the list goes on. Not to mention those unvaccinated with greater risk of hospitalisation and worse, or those with the scandalously under-reported Long Covid.
One obvious “inconvenience” is that we’ve all been unwittingly spreading the virus. Gloucestershire Live is reporting that cases in the county have increased by 328%. Not surprising when the testing system has broken down and the infected weren’t self-isolating.
As detailed in Andrew Milroy’s letter for transmission to MPs, the firm at the centre of this failure, Immensa, had no relevant experience before it was given a government contract of £119 million.
Everything this government does is casual and amateurish. They go on holiday as Afghanistan falls to the Taliban. They’re too lazy to read the Northern Ireland Protocol designed to protect peace in the province. They can’t be bothered to check a testing laboratory’s capabilities. They’re killing people with incompetence.