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The Damning Truths about the Antigen Test

The Damning Truths About the Antigen Test (And what does it have to do with technical writing_)

Well. They changed the rules, again, right? I think so.

Or maybe not, I’m not sure.

Ohhh right, they changed the rules, but they forgot to inform the public, right? Yes. I mean they forgot to inform the public and all the employees of the institutions doing the tests.

Well, OK, so maybe not all of them – but they did forget to tell the marketing people who send out the emails with the instructions what to do next (after the test result) so that everyone now gets different instructions! Right?

Right!!!

In fact, I’m not sure.

So, how did I get informed about the new testing rules? Want to guess?? A WhatsApp group of about 30 professional women. You get where I am going? 30 women, meaning everyone had a different answer and proof of their answer.

So here is a summary of the ‘known’ facts which apparently led to the new rules:

While PCR is more accurate than the antigen,

  • The queues for PCR testing got too long
  • The waiting time to receive the results doubled
  • We, as a nation (and probably globally), were running out of tests.

As a result, the powers that be decided that only people over age 60 should do the PCR (not me); everyone else should do an institution antigen (lateral flow) test…

So that must explain why there are now no queues for PCRs, and long queues for ‘institution’ antigen testing.

Despite the known fact that antigens are giving false negatives AND false positives at an alarmingly high rate….

[Maybe I should call it ‘official’ antigen and not ‘institution’ antigen? Although at the end of the day, the difference between this test and a home test is you picking your nose, or someone else picking your nose….]

Wait, I think PCR testing just changed again to over age 30! Yes… at last someone counts me…. (Albeit they forgot to inform me!)

And it has transpired, by the way, that if you just turn up at the testing station, you can get PCR tested even if you are under 30!!!

Here’s the real bummer though. Nobody actually knows what tests they are supposed to do. How do I know that nobody knows? Because I asked lots of people (including the Ministry of Health telephone lady, G-d bless her soul). And everyone had a different answer:  you need to follow the official antigen test with a PCR or your isolation-clock doesn’t start ticking / you don’t need to do a PCR / only if you’re over 60 you need to do a PCR / you don’t need to do an antigen at all, just go straight for a PCR…… And believe me, I even encountered two people who got totally different email instructions from THE SAME antigen testing station.

Are you still with me? Good, because to be honest, I’ve almost lost myself at this point. So where am I going with this?

Let’s assume you know where to go and which test to do… great. And let’s just say you need to do a home test… here comes another spoke in the wheel … and trust me, this one really sits on a sensitive place for me being a technical writer.

As a technical writer, I do love writing instructions, but I totally agree that often a diagram makes a process so much easier to explain. Except no. Not if everyone has a different diagram….

In case the general lack of consistent information was not bad enough, all those pretty ‘workflow’ images started popping up on the internet, on social media, WhatsApp groups “What to do if you get a positive result” (aka “Go to jail. Do not pass GO. Do not collect 200”).

Every diagram had a different set of instructions.

You thought I was coming to the end, right? Ha! Sorry, there’s more where that came from…

The home antigen. I must talk a little more about that. I am at a loss. You would think that they are all the same, right? Well No. I mean, boy oh boy, are companies jumping on the bandwagon with this one. Every time you buy, it’s a different brand.

Now to be fair, they have all managed to write the instructions in the same size 4 font* so you can only read them if you photograph them and zoom in, but come on; one brand says you should drip 4 drops on the test thingy, another brand wanted 2 drops, another 3 drops…. There is no learning curve here. You have to check and change every single time.

[*One of the rules of using a diagram to replace words in a technical document, btw, is that if there is writing in the diagram, it should always be 6pt font size minimum.]

To finish up, every few days you sit there like an imbecile for 15 minutes (sometimes a few more just to be sure), watching. Just like when you bought your first microwave, or your first iRobot! You watch the little pink patch turn into one line. And then you keep watching, and waiting, and expecting…. And nothing ever happens.

Except when it does. Be well.

About the Author
Born, raised and educated in the UK, I am a technical writer and editor since as far back as I can remember. A runner with a British sense of humour that occasionally gets me into strife, but usually just makes people smile.... Starting out on what may well be an amazing future as an internationally-renowned blogger and content writer.
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