"I'm going to put this up your nose, to swab the back of your throat. It's going to feel like I'm going too far, but that's the way we have to do it, ok?"

Getting tested for Covid-19 is an unwelcome turn of events, even if the nurse was as nice as possible about it. But I'm trying to remember that it's one of the best outcomes in this situation.

Only a few days ago, my husband and I were trying to keep cool heads while organising emergency flights out of Argentina, as borders shut and flights were cancelled around us.

It was three days of travelling to get home, with substantial amounts of time spent on airplanes and in airports.


It was a calculated risk. You increase your exposure by going into an area with lots of travellers, and standing in queues with idiots behind you who refuse to keep their distance.

But the alternative is waiting in a foreign country, with an unknown standard of healthcare, for an unknown period of time. So what do you do?

You flee, get home by any means you can, and then go straight into self-isolation once you're on home soil.

Do not pass go, do not collect $200, no excuses, straight into self-isolation. Better safe than sorry, we told ourselves. Just imagine if we infected someone.

Then last night we started to develop symptoms.

First my husband asked, quite casually, if my throat was sore. A few hours later, we both admitted to being hot one moment, cold the next.

My husband started to cough right before we went to bed.

Drive-through testing is newly available in Hamilton, where I live. So this morning we got up and went straight to Claudelands Event Centre, and joined a queue.


The woman wearing a mask at the gate warned us not to leave our car, and that the queue might take an hour or more. Lucky I brought snacks.

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We joked while we were waiting that our mums would be so worried. But, we reassured each other, this was probably nothing. We didn't feel too bad.

Most of the cars in front of us were being waved through, no swab test needed. We filled out a checklist, saying we had been in Argentina and Peru, disclosing our temperature, the cough, the sore throat.

The nurse came back, rustling in her scrubs, a mask over her mouth and a plastic shield over her face. You'll need a test, she said. Drive into the next section.

We were one of only two cars, parked in an empty concrete building, a shuttered cafe to the side of us.

The nurse held out a disturbingly long swab with a flexible end, and that's when she warned us. It's going up your nose, and it's going to feel like it's going too far. It has to go that far.

I wouldn't say it hurt. But it was incredibly uncomfortable.

Now we wait. In about 48 hours, someone should contact us and say whether we're positive or negative. We stay at home until then, doing what everyone is doing in quarantine; eating too much, watching a lot of TV, and trying to persuade ourselves to do something useful with our time.

So far, it seems we're in the 80 per cent of cases that will be mild. But all I can think about is how easy it would have been to break quarantine, and infect someone.

For the first two days back in New Zealand, I felt totally normal. I could have convinced myself it was fine to pop into my normal cafe. I could have nipped into work to grab something I forgot. I could have popped to the supermarket for just a last few things. I could have been like the numerous idiots lining up at bars around the country.

But I was worried that I would infect my in-laws, one of whom has asthma. I was worried I would increase the community spread until it hit my step-dad, who is over 70. I was worried about our next-door neighbour, whose age I don't know, but who is retired and occasionally gives us homegrown limes over the fence.

And so we stayed home, just in case. Now it turns out we might have stopped ourselves from spreading it to thousands of other vulnerable people.

Still we wait at home, to know for sure.

The nurse was very kind about my involuntary response of jerking my head away as she shoved the swab into the depths of my nose, and handed us yet more information about self-isolation.

One star for that cafe, my husband joked as we drove away. Weird habit of shoving things up noses.