Why I’m doing regular rapid Covid-19 tests

FOR Jason Coles, taking a rapid Covid-19 test every week is the opposite of a hassle – instead, it’s a godsend that allows him to do his job and help keep his family and colleagues safer.

Jason, 48, is a kitchen supervisor with Apetito, a catering firm in Trowbridge, Wiltshire that delivers meals to vulnerable members of the public and to the health and social care sector. The company signed up to a Covid-19 testing pilot scheme last November, so he has been taking part in regular rapid testing for six months.

“We were incredibly busy at the beginning of the pandemic, working flat out because demand went through the roof and it really weighed heavily on me,” he says. “Our work was vital because we serve individuals at home, care homes and hospitals nationwide – but at the same time, the virus was rife, and I was really worried. I remember getting up in the morning and taking my temperature to check if I was OK. It was all I could do.”

Jason was concerned, not just for his own health, but also for his family’s. His wife, Lisa, 45, and both children Harrison, 13, and Bethany, 10, are asthmatic. So, when Apetito announced it was to be one of the very first adopters of the trial testing programme, Jason was fully behind the decision.

“I was like, ‘bring it on’,” he says. “I was pleasantly surprised the company was taking it seriously and doing its bit because there are bigger operations around here.”

A testing schedule was put in place with staff using the kits under supervision and registering the results on their phones via an account set up through the government website.

“Like everyone, I was initially concerned whether I was doing it properly,” he says. “But then you’re getting a result back in around 30 minutes, which meant I could get on with my work in the knowledge that I was doing my bit to help stop the virus spreading, and so were my colleagues.

“It has also identified positive cases. These were people who were feeling perfectly well, with no symptoms – so the thermal temperature camera we have at the gate wasn’t able to detect them, but they were picked up by the rapid test. That’s good news because they could have potentially spread the virus to others without knowing.”

This year, more of Jason’s family joined in with the testing when Lisa, a teaching assistant, and kids went back to school, although only Harrison tested as regular rapid testing is advised for children over the age of 11.

“It’s become a family routine on a Thursday and Sunday,” Jason says. “Initially, my son wasn’t too sure, but I explained to him that if we want to prevent lockdowns  in the future, then the more of us that take part, the more we can help protect each other and keep life moving, and now he’s really embraced it. He did his first three tests at school, but now he carries out the tests himself and reports the results on his phone through the government website.”

Jason’s family know the importance of reporting test results online straight away, even if it is negative or void. Recording all results allows scientists to use the information to spot patterns and outbreaks more quickly, helping reduce the risk of future lockdowns. You can report your results at gov.uk/report-covid19-result or by calling 119.

There have been no positive results in the Coles family, but doing the rapid test twice a week and reporting their results means they can feel assured they’re doing their bit to help protect each other and keep life moving.

Like cleaning teeth every day, taking two rapid tests a week is a regular part of the Coles’ health routine. And if it must be like that for a while, then so be it, as far as Jason is concerned.

“If it means we can help stop the virus from spreading so we can keep life moving, which hopefully one day means restrictions are lifted to the point that we can go on holiday or go to concerts, I’m all for it. We’ve got tickets to see Bryan Adams at the Royal Albert Hall next year. It will be amazing to see him in that beautiful building. And if we have to do twice weekly testing to increase our chance for this to happen, no problem!”

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