I didn’t study for this test

A couple of weeks ago I got a letter inviting me to take part in a nationwide study into the prevalence of Covid-19. I had been selected at random from all of those registered with a GP in England. All it required was to complete an online questionnaire about any symptoms I currently have (easy – none!) and to self-administer an at-home test they would send me.

It may sound weird, but I was excited to get this opportunity. I know the test is supposedly unpleasant (ranging from mildly to deeply, when I surveyed some friends). I don’t want to minimise that for the poor folks who have to take them regularly, or who take them in an atmosphere of fear rather than curiosity. But I would have felt like I missed out if we got through this situation and I’d never taken a test. It’s not Woodstock, but it’s an era-defining experience in its own way and I didn’t want to miss out on it.

I got the test in the post on Thursday this week, along with instructions on when and how to administer it. It needs to be returned for analysis quickly after administering, which means I don’t actually do anything with it until the morning of the day when it will be collected. I have my alarm set so I can make sure it’s ready at the start of the courier’s collection window at 8 am.

Along with the instructions was a link to an explanatory video. When I got to the end of that video, the “Thank you for your essential contribution to this important study” part, it felt like part of a science fiction film. Another reminder that none of this is normal.