We all have our own way to know COVID numbers are going up. We may follow the official statistics, or may simply base it on how many people we know, and know of, who are infected. But either way, it is clear that there is no hype and we are currently part way through an explosion of colossal proportions.
That means that more and more of us are coming into contact with people who have the virus. And that in turn means that more and more of us are heading to testing stations to check out our COVID status. When we get there, most of the time, contrary to our expectations, we find that we are not the only ones waiting in line to get tested. In fact, most of the time there’s a substantial queue. It quite possibly even includes classmates, work colleagues, family, or members of whichever other group you may participate in that has somehow become contagious. Tempers fray in the hot, or the cold, and we are irritated at waiting so long for what is generally — for those of us queuing for the rapid antigen tests — a perfectly quick and easy process once we arrive at the desk.
Of course, testing kits are supposed to be available to buy and DIY at home as well. But a non-scientific survey says that these tests are selling out as soon as stock comes in. So, barring a lucky few, we are all headed out to our local testing stations in order to continue with our lives safely, and to ensure that those we find ourselves alongside can too.
Corona Testing Stations have obviously been with us for some time. But in line with the new wave, Magen David Adom has been creating and staffing extra hubs to try to help manage the vast numbers requiring testing each day. Many of those crewing these hubs are volunteers — often at school studying in the morning and coming straight from class to manage the lines and to log test results, from as soon as they become free until the last test of the evening is done. I have to declare an interest here and admit that I know this because one of these volunteers is my teenage daughter — she has put in 38 hours volunteer time in the last week, alongside school, homework, and other extra-curricular commitments.
Having stood in lines a great deal over the last few days, it upsets me that our frustration at the waits too often spills over into attacking the volunteers. Some of these stops are crewed only by two people, trying to perform the work of six. Some of them are simply overwhelmed by numbers that were not anticipated. Volunteers are working 11-hour shifts, with barely a break to sip a bottle of water, in order to keep the country and the community as safe as they can. Even those who are professionals are constantly pulling out all the stops to test as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
Even with the changes and reductions in PCR requirements, more and more of us are heading for the testing stations as more and more people to whom we are connected test positive. Other than MADA’s sterling efforts to boost testing availability, and an unseemly spat between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, only belated thought seems to have been given as to how testing requirements are to be fulfilled.
And so — as always it seems in Israel — volunteer effort plugs the gaps. It may not be perfect, but let’s try to be civilized while we wait our turn the next time we go to test, and perhaps even say thank you to those offering us the service.