This Article is From Apr 27, 2020

When I Went For A Coronavirus Test

Where is this hospital? It's so far away. Is it safe to go to a hospital at this time? Hope there isn't a crowd. I have no symptoms - or doesn't that mean anything anymore?

Thoughts - when the Karnataka government asked media personnel in Bengaluru to report for Covid-19 screening at a government hospital dedicated to the fight against the virus.

For all of us, the novel Coronavirus spent a while creeping into our consciousness. It began with reports of a deadly virus in China's Wuhan province as we scanned the international news. The number of cases exploded. Soon wealthy western countries saw thousands of deaths. 

It came closer home in stages. A young man who tested positive from Telangana - since recovered - had passed through Bengaluru and gone to work. The first COVID-19 death in the country was reported from Karnataka. 

Then came the closing of our office space. And the lockdown.

During the lockdown, the media was allowed out to shoot. Armed with masks and attempting to keep people at more than an arm's length - reporters and camera persons went out into ghost cities to report on the state of migrants, vendors losing business, the urban poor.

This does put journalists at more risk than if they had stayed at home. 

After journalists tested positive in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, the Karnataka government decided to test us too. Calls were made and it was scheduled organisation by organisation.

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CV Raman General Hospital

I headed to the CV Raman General Hospital, which I had never visited before, with - I must admit - anxiety. I was going to be tested for a potentially fatal virus. Going out of the house these days anyway seems like a risky thing to do - and to add to that, I was heading to a hospital. And these aren't the best of times.

I found the hospital easily enough. 

A sign told me this was now a notified COVID-19 isolation hospital. A ramp led up to the front entrance, with no less than two stops for hand sanitizer. My temperature was checked with that little scanner and I was let in.

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We waited in a queue in the clean and bright hospital for a doctor to give us an initial screening, with marks on the floor ensuring proper distance. He checked if we had symptoms or pre-existing conditions. 

Then onto another queue with lots of space between people. As we moved forward, Medical Superintendent Dr Radhakrishna walked by to check on how things were going. The hospital has a staff of 250, now dedicated to COVID work. He made the point that in addition to the many doctors and nurses putting themselves out there - the lab technicians, the orderlies, the cleaning staff, administration staff - played vital roles in keeping the hospital running smoothly. Looking at so many of them covered head to toe in PPEs in the hot summer, it was one more reminder of what people are doing to help keep us all healthy.

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Queue at the hospital for initial screening

 My turn came and I collected a swab in a tube. I went into a room where I sat on the bed and stuck out my tongue as directed, while a doctor took a sample from the back of my throat. The instinct is to back off, shut your mouth and run. It doesn't last long (though it felt long at the time). It was minor discomfort, no pain.

And I was done. Once the test was over, I realised I had been waiting for it to be done. There was a definite sense of relief. I could now chat with my cameraperson colleagues, Kumar and Govind. We hadn't all been together since the lockdown began. And it was good to catch up - even at a safe social distance and with half our faces covered by masks.

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With my colleagues, Kumar and Govind

The results? We tested negative for the virus. But it was an important thing to go through, with testing being so important in this fight we are all waging against the coronavirus. 

(Maya Sharma is Executive Editor - South)

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