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“we have growing confidence that we will have a test, track and trace operation that will be world-beating and, yes, it will be in place by june 1st”

boris johnson, 20th may 2020

i took a covid test from the government the other day. i think it is very unlikely that it will be positive, but am keen to be certain. my ME throws up so many novel and baffling symptoms so often, and additionally i have had convincing indications of a common cold every day for the past few years – these coldy symptoms vary in severity, but are constantly present – and all of this means it is impossible to assess accurately, when unexplainable new symptoms occur, whether i have an extra infection on top of my day-to-day experience of an immune “system” turned inside out. but i developed a bit of a cough last weekend, as well as increased exhaustion, and felt the need for clarity.

i heard dido harding on the radio news claiming that “anyone can get a test today if they want one” on the exact day that i decided it would be sensible to request my own test. she sounded like she knew what she was talking about. ha ha. i went online to find the government website where you order tests. i was relieved to discover that you can have one sent to your home address and aren’t debarred on account of not having a car and not being capable of driving to your nearest football stadium. i entered quite a lot of information about myself. when i got near to the end, the website explained that if i was to qualify for a home test i would have to agree to allow an organisation called transunion to confirm my identity. if i didn’t like the prospect of this check, i could always go right back to the start and ask for a football ground test instead. (i don’t know about you, but if i’d been involved in designing that website, i’d have suggested that this condition ought to be shared before someone enters lots of personal details, not afterwards.) so anyway, i thought, fuck it, this is the only way i can get tested, who knows who this transunion bunch are, but i’ll take my chances and click on yes…

…by this point the thin man had arrived. and i made the ages old mistake of cheerfully announcing to him that i’d almost finished requesting my test, and that it had gone smoothly, including a little boast about knowing my national insurance number by heart…

…when the website took me to its final page and, hey presto! informed me that it hadn’t been able to confirm my identity.

oh dear. i must have typed something incorrectly, shouldn’t have crowed about knowing things off by heart, and most of all shouldn’t have called it as a win just before the finishing line. silly me. i’ll have to do it again. so i do. then the thin man does it again again, after my second attempt fails. the website continues to deny my existence. (i find it hard not to take this as a personal slight; one of my favourite neuroses involves questioning my humanity, and now transunion are expressing their own doubts over my human credentials.)

after attempt number three fails i decide to try the helpline telephone number offered up on the website. a kind and helpful chap answers almost immediately. his confidence is heartening. he sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. ha ha. apparently the fault isn’t with me, but the website, which he describes as glitchy. not to worry; he has special powers and a special code which will reverse the glitchiness. he is so sure he is about to solve my problem that he lets out the beginnings of a whoo-hoo, but stops part way through the hoo…oh dear. on this occasion his special powers aren’t strong enough. he can’t order me a test after all. or he could, if i wasn’t a disabled wheelchair user who doesn’t have a car and therefore can’t get to the football ground…

…can he give me any advice on what to try next?

yes. he recommends that i phone the same number again tomorrow. he is very apologetic.

following one more bash on the website and a second phone call the next day, i finally succeed in clinching my test.

any of you who have experienced carrying out your own home covid test will know that the first thing you are required to do, before you even think about unpacking the kit or doing anything with it, is register your test online.

i bet you can’t guess what happened next?!

…luckily a very kind and helpful chap answered the phone. he assured me the cause of the problem wasn’t me, but the website. and he was able to override the glitchiness and register my test.

so it took me four online endeavours and three phone calls to get to the stage where i could take the test. i lost track of the number of emails i received containing the code which was meant to finalise my request, but they were sufficient that i now know that code by heart.

some people think the government has made a massive balls-up of its response to the global pandemic. some consider the testing “system” farcical. and some say that members of the government and those employed by the government shouldn’t be permitted to tell barefaced lies, especially not about matters of life and death.

[reader, i tested negative.]

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