Iraq Covid Test

Image Credit: AFP

We tend to gravitate towards anything that’s on offer. A 25% extra in any of the foodstuff, including potato chips, or +2 bars of your favourite chocolates in the pack, and Buy 2 Get 1 Free or the other way round, we don’t let go off those offers. Though you know potato chips are bad for health, nothing will stop you from reaching for a couple of packets from the shelves.

Your wardrobe may be bulging at the seams, but you tend to grab that offer of an extra shirt or dress. Is it value for money? Why not, when something’s offered free. Exactly!

We were at Sharjah City Centre the other day to buy a pair of jeans. We saw a serpentine queue leading to the space below the escalator that brings you to the ground floor and next to the one that takes you up to the first floor where health workers in PPEs were taking nasal swab samples.

My eyes fell on a small poster announcing FREE COVID-19 TESTING, and soon we (my wife and I) found ourselves at the tail-end of the male and female queues.

The line moved slowly. After a good 20 minutes, I realised I have just moved a few paces from where I began. Wondered how long it’d take me to reach the testing area.

That’s when it crossed my mind: ‘What if we are tested positive?’

My fears and a restless night 

Instantly I called my wife on the phone as I could not see her from where I stood in the queue.

I expressed my fears to her since we are all set to travel back home (for good) in the next few days. But it was too late. She had already given her ID card and phone number and was seated in the chair for her swab sample to be collected.

Now nothing can be done — or rather undone.

I was thinking of all the possible scenarios in the event we tested positive. It’s only in medical tests we find that positive doesn’t mean something to be happy about. It’s quite the opposite!

Do we have to be in self-isolation or will we be quarantined? Would we be hospitalised and put on a ventilator? Do we have to postpone our travel date and would there be any repatriation flights or will the regular flights resume? And the more worrisome question playing on my mind was would any of my friends or relatives visit us either at home or the hospital?

While the thoughts were running riot, the queue had moved quite a bit, and after a few more agonising moments, it was my turn to give my sample for the PCR test. The medic greeted me with a ‘hello’ and inquired how I felt. ‘I’m fine, thank you’, I quipped as she explored the nasal cavity with a swab. I felt a painful, irritating and tingling tickle and started sputtering, coughing, sneezing and wincing all at the same time.

Soon the ordeal was over, and I was told the test results would be sent through SMS. Believe me when I say I hardly slept through the night, perturbed by the prospect of negative news. But indeed I got negative news, I mean COVID-negative result, which is actually positive. Oh, forget it. Quite confusing!

The fact of the matter is I am ‘fit to fly’.

— P. Nagarjuna Rao is a journalist based in Hyderabad, India



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