The Covid Testing Shemozzle

By now, you would have heard horror stories about people wanting to be tested for Covid and not being able to. The situation appears to be worse in Australian capital cities, but the particular example I describe here happened in the environs of a large regional city in Queensland.

A child developed symptoms that might have been Covid or might merely have been the common cold. The child’s parents tried to get the child tested. But RAT (rapid antigen tests) were unavailable, and the queues at the main hub for PCR tests (Polymerase Chain Reaction tests but, of course, you knew that all along, didn’t you?) were 89 cars long. And none of the other reputed testing sites wanted to answer the phone.

Finally, the frazzled parents found an appointment for testing three days hence, with a three to four working-day waiting time for results.

So here is the situation. The child has the symptoms for Covid, but the parents are unable to verify things one way or the other in a timely fashion. What do the parents do? Both of them live off paid employment, and their workplaces, critically short-staffed, need them. But to do the right thing, both child and parents must isolate as of now. What I’d like to know is: who is doing the right thing by them? Is their experience, which was perilously close to a wild goose chase, acceptable? Does the timing of things work to the advantage of the child, its parents, and the employers of the parents? Is the system fit for purpose?

It is a statement of the bleeding obvious that the Morrison government has dropped the ball on all issues medical. Like this testing process. Like the acquisition of vaccines. Like organizing the distribution of vaccines. Like the setting up of quarantine facilities. This government talks about rear view mirrors, but doesn’t want to look ahead.

What might be its next shemozzle? Let me suggest one possibility. Oral treatment to prevent severe symptoms of Covid is now becoming available in the US. Is Australia in the queue to get a supply of this stuff from Merck or whomever? Given the track record of this government, I very much doubt they even know about it.

When this government does look ahead, it seeks ways to corral votes in order to get itself re-elected. Or it looks for positive economic indicators – ignoring the negative ones. of course – which it can then spin for this very purpose. It never looks at medical issues. It sees science as a nuisance. It doesn’t see that there are any quick votes in these things.

On medical issues, the glib answer it gives is you must take ‘personal responsibility’. In other words you’re on your own.

I have decided to take Morrison’s advice. I shall be personally responsible. So I have forked out the shekels for a good quality pulse oximeter, a small and portable device that measures the oxygen saturation level in the blood. It is non-invasive. You do not have to prick a finger to get a reading. And I find it very easy to use.

It won’t tell me if I have Covid or not. But, if I have the classic symptoms of Covid, and my blood oxygen level drops below 92% – an indicator of incipient pneumonia – I’ll call the hospital, and hope there’s a bed available. Uh oh. Availability of hospital beds is another issue that’s not on the government’s radar.

These are strange times. We elect a government to do nothing. When put on the spot, the government gives its constituents the run-around with phrases like ‘resilience and adaptation’, ‘I don’t hold a hose’, ‘personal responsibility’, ‘can-do capitalism’, etc. What we look for are solutions, but what we get is spin.

Enough is enough. Show ponies are for circuses. We can do better. It’s time for a change.