Tag Archives: social distancing

testing, testing….

Over the last 6-8 months there has been a lot of criticism of how the government has been handling the Covid19 outbreak in Ireland and I have been critical myself of the lack of direction and apparent lack of a clear path. A lot of media criticism has been around the failure of the government to ramp up testing and contact tracing services as well as the ability of the health service to cope with a second and third wave. In the last couple of days I have nothing but praise for the service.

My initial contact was with my local GP service in Lifford. Our service are particularly good and I don’t know how much of my initial speed was their systems or the HSE systems as a whole.

I spoke to the health centre shortly after 9am and received a call back from a GP at 9:30am. She went through my symptoms, asked about the rest of the household and recommended we all get tested. She booked the tests electronically and the appointments came through as SMS within minutes for appointments at 11:30am.

My knowledge of the testing centre was quite limited. I’d seen photos of the original setup in O’Donnell GAA pitch in the local media. I’d also heard that it was moved to a new facility in the car park at the hospital but I’d no idea of the scale of this new centre. Below are photos of the original and upgraded facilities taken from Donegal Daily articles.

original facility
new facility

All our checking in and testing was done without us leaving the car. We were initially directed to a reception block where our appointments were confirmed and our details checked. We were given envelopes containing the testing kits, tissues, masks and information leaflets. Conor’s and Catriona’s required additional work so we were directed to a waiting area until they were ready. It was like a less enjoyable version of the McDonald’s Drive Thru!

After a few minutes we were called forward to one of the large drive in sheds where two staff, fully kitted in PPE explained the whole process and completed the tests. They were very friendly and professional and made the whole process a lot easier.

The test for kids is different to adults so Conor was done first with the swab up both nostrils for a short twist. For the rest of us it was a swab of the back of the throat and then the back of the nose via a nostril. The test itself is hateful and uncomfortable but not sore and definitely manageable, over quite quickly. I’d say the four of us were done in less than 10 minutes including explanations.

I’ve seen some criticism this year that the Irish Army hasn’t been used properly to support the fight against Covid19 so it was interesting to see two of the testers yesterday were wearing Army uniforms under their PPE. It seems they are being used but under the radar and that they will be utilised further as the vaccination program begins.

We were told that the results could take 24-48hrs but woke the next morning to SMS confirmations that we were all positive with guideline links on what to do next and what to expect. At 9:50am I received a call from the GP to confirm the result in case we hadn’t received the message and again explaining what to do (isolate for 10 days), what to expect, what to look out for and how to treat the symptoms. She also completed the electronic declarations for social welfare to cover both Catriona and myself while off work.

Later that morning we both completed the online social welfare application. Again a very streamlined process made simple and easy to complete.

That afternoon we also received a call from the contact tracing service. It was mainly Catriona they spoke to but took details for both of us and the boys. Catriona’s work has had a number of cases already so they’re hyper aware and we have really good systems in place at my work. The boys have been off school since before Xmas so it was a relief to have very few possible contacts. While they are no longer testing close contacts without symptoms it’s reassuring to see that they are still following through to ask them to isolate.

I really do hope that the HSE has learned from how they have managed and handled the Covid19 pandemic and that once it is over they can take these new experiences and learnings and use them to correct many of the failings of the current system. I would like to think we will see an end to the endless bureaucracy, waiting times and endless queues in congested clinics. They’ve shown this year that dramatic change is possible when the will is there.

confined to quarters

Catriona had a rotten cold all weekend and the boys picked it up at the end of the weekend. Not to be outdone I started getting a sore throat and the sniffles on Monday too. I was determined not to let this one beat me like the last one derailed my December streak plans. Monday afternoon I had a bit of a cough that became a bit more persistent as the day went on. Tuesday I still had the cough but felt OK so off to work as normal. As the day went on the cough got a bit worse and by evening I was also feeling a bit breathless. At this stage I was starting to get a bad feeling.

At bedtime and I was feeling an ache in my thighs that was very strange and worrying. At this point I’d already decided to call the doctor in the morning and arrange a Covid consultation. I woke at 130am with pains across my shoulders and in my lower back. These, as well as the ache in my legs came and went all night preventing any sleep, even a doze. By morning I was also slightly feverish but only a little with a temperature of 37.8°C and a dose of paracetamol and ibuprofen soon sorted all symptoms shortly after getting up.

A call to the doctor and all four of us were sent for Covid tests in Letterkenny for 1130am with results expected in 24-48hrs.

As the day went on I was feeling a bit better, the fever was gone and the cough easing. The pains were a lot less and although I was tired I put it down to the lack of sleep. All of us felt OK and we were starting to feel a bit foolish and even talking about the fact that we had wasted resources with the only result being a talking point experience of the test process. I was feeling especially foolish about causing worry at work having informed my boss of my symptoms and test that morning.

After a solid night of caught up sleep I woke to see this on my phone:

All four of us tested positive but thankfully all of us are still only experiencing mild symptoms. The boys are pretty much OK to the extent that Owen thought this morning that we were pranking him about the result! Catriona has a chesty cough and both of us are more fatigued than usual but that’s it so far.

The advice from the doctor is to treat the symptoms as a normal cold or flu but not to ignore any changes for the worse. I’ve been reading Dr Google and apparently symptoms can worsen after a mild start and can go from mild to severe quite quickly. Increased breathlessness is the key one to watch for.

We now have to stay home until next week. I was the last to show symptoms but we’re all going to isolate from the same day (Monday) to be on the safe side. That means we’re at home and not allowed to leave the house until Thursday the 14th. Frustratingly that includes even going for a walk in case we meet someone. Assuming we don’t experience any escalation of symptoms that will be the biggest challenge!

new restrictions

New measures were introduced yesterday evening that, despite government reluctance to use the term, are effectively a full lockdown for the country. We are only allowed to leave home for essential tasks (food shopping/collection, caring for the elderly or vulnerable, collection of medicines, travel to essential work) and are only allowed to exercise within 2km of our homes.

This last bit sounds very restrictive but it’s amazing how much space is within a 2km radius. A software developer in Wexford was quick off the mark and has a handy online tool to show you what this looks like.

my 2km radius

A member of a cycling WhatsApp group pointed out that a 2km radius is equal to a circumference of 12.5km and armed with both bits of information I was able to create an 11km loop on Strava that stays within the new guidelines.

the maths

A few cycling friends have used hill repeats for training but despite considering it I’ve never bothered. This loop is effectively hill repeats as there is one big climb in the middle with an average of 5.4% over 2km with three sections of 10%+ giving an elevation change of 145m. It’s a tough old climb and despite tiredness setting in I was surprised how consistent I was on the four repeats I did today on a total distance of 51km including the descent from home and climb back up.

elevation profile
click the image to view on strava

On my first loop I was hailed by John, one of my fellow Club mates, outside his house as he was out cutting the grass. It was a very pleasant and novel experience to be talking to someone (maintaining a 2m social distance) other than family and shop assistants for the first time in 2 weeks, even if our conversation was unsurprisingly dominated by the virus.

mother’s day

If St Patrick’s Day was strange then Mother’s Day wasn’t going to be much different. We wanted to do as much as possible today while being sensible so we went to visit Mum and with a great idea from Catriona we wrote Happy Mother’s Day on A4 sheets and greeted her from outside her garden wall having already left her present outside the front door. It was a bit weird but we got to say what we wanted and she and Dad both stayed safe.

Catriona’s wish was a walk on the beach. We went to Rathmullan as it’s a big wide beach with plenty of space for keeping away from others and allowed us to visit Catriona’s Mum’s grave on the way.

When we arrived in Rathmullan the car park was as busy as I’ve seen it with about 40 cars parked up already. Having seen pictures of crowds in the Wicklow Mountains yesterday we were on the verge of turning away but as there was nobody actually in the car park we decided to have a look down the beach.

It was heartening to see how everyone was behaving. There were a lot of people out walking, lots of couples and lots of small family groups. Everyone was very responsible with everyone well spread out up and down the beach with lots of space. We saw a couple of groups of people meeting who knew each other but just waving. One pair of younger couples were kind of messing but one of the guys was pretty clear about the need to stay apart and made sure the other guy didn’t come too close while still being able to have a conversation.

It was really uplifting to see everyone enjoying the day, the first of the proper Spring weather and to be able to put aside the worries and concerns for just a little while but still being sensible enough to stay safe.

Catriona’s favourite thing is to walk on the beach and it was great we were able to give her that today.

happy mother’s day

isolation distraction

One of the biggest concerns about avoiding the virus is the impact of isolation on people’s mental health. Luckily it’s Spring and the weather is reasonably good so it’s not hard to get outside and do something. The boys have been spending a good bit of time kicking the football and Owen has even started running in a bid to keep up his football and Gaelic fitness when he can’t train.

It’s very easy to fall into bad habits, staying up late at night and lying in late in the morning as well as eating all the wrong things. It’s also very easy to lose motivation and get very lazy. While I’ve definitely been quite lazy I’ve also made an effort to get out and off my arse too.

Since Monday I’ve gone for a walk each day (3 x 6km and 1 x 10km) and today was a biking day with almost perfect cycling weather.

My MTB has suffered much of the same maintenence neglect as my road bike so yesterday I spend the afternoon giving it a deep clean with a big focus on the drive system which was full of gunk. Today I spent 2 hrs and 30km getting it clattered in mud from a variety of local forest trails!

click on the image to view on strava

st patrick’s day 2020

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made a rare speech to the nation this evening and as he saidit’s been a St Patrick’s Day like no other

Since I’ve come home from Switzerland I’ve been self-isolating as much as possible. I’m not due back to work until Thursday but they have asked me to stay off longer. No timeline given and no determination on pay but I’m expecting a minimum of 14 days and social welfare emergency payment only which will be a significant reduction in pay.

When I first received the message I was still in Switzerland and despite the growing crisis I still felt annoyed and that it was an over reaction. Switzerland was green status and despite large numbers of positive cases there were very few in our region and probably less chance of contracting the virus than at home. Since returning home that has changed to amber status yesterday, the government have recommended 14 day restricted movement for all travellers returning to Ireland since yesterday and Switzerland have closed their borders and gone into partial lockdown today. With that, the mood in the country and the increasingly difficult news in the media I’m no longer annoyed!

I did go out at one stage today. We needed a few items from the shop so I went to the local Mace. The mood was as weird as it gets. Everyone eyeballing everyone else, making sure they knew where everyone was and mentally willing each other to stay back. The checkout had the crisp baskets pulled out to enforce a 2m distance between the staff and customer with the girl stepping well back and wearing protective gloves. Payment was made via card and tapped to reduce contact further. It was a horribly sad atmosphere.

the one that #stayedaway saved the rest

We’re a country renowned for our friendliness and today is our national holiday. Instead of celebrating and enjoying ourselves we’re hunkered down in our homes, expecting the worst and hoping others stay away. Self-isolation is a key strategy to controlling the spread of the virus but it’s damaging to the fabric of society.

One minister stated yesterday that “the normal we had a few weeks ago won’t be the normal we have again“. I hope our new normal is still a good one and that we come out the other side as good people in a good society once again.