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Methodically and with great mindfulness, I don my first pair of gloves. We tried cytotoxic gloves for a few days. The longer cuffs ensured greater coverage, but now we’ve run out. Next is my impervious gown. I continue with my hair cover, then my face shield. It is the beginning of Autumn, but the sun still has bite. Before I have donned my second pair of gloves, I am perspiring. My buddy checks me, and I motion for the driver to come forward. They are playing with their phone, so I wait patiently, breathing deeply and listening to the Rosellas chatter in the gumtrees.

“Good morning. Are you here to be swabbed? What’s your name sir?” A cough and splutter, I strain to hear his husky voice.
“Please ensure your window is down and your engine is turned off.” I make my way behind the vehicle to the driver’s side.
“In this bundle there is a work certificate dated for two weeks from today, a list of contact phone numbers, and a COVID-19 Fact sheet. Have you ever been swabbed before?” He shakes his head. He is teary.

Something suppressed long ago stirs in me and I wonder if he’s worried about dying this year.
“I am using one swab today. First, I will place it at the back of your throat, then it will go up your nose. It may make you want to gag; your eyes may water, and you may want to sneeze. If you do this, PLEASE ensure you do it in the opposite direction to me sir. Please remain looking ahead at all times”
He reclines his seat and I approach the car window. “Head back, mouth open, tongue out and say ‘ah’”. He gags and coughs. “Now I will place it in your nostril sir, please try not to scrunch your nose up”. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…he sneezes, once, twice, three times and I am now dealing with aerosolized COVID. I take 2 steps back, mindful not to be collected by the car rounding the garden to pick-up their relative from the entrance.

“You will be contacted in the next week with your results. You must now behave like you are infected and adhere to strict self-isolation rules. You must not leave your home until notified. There are harsh penalties in place for people who violate this order. Do you have any questions?” He wipes a tear away. He has no questions. “You are fine to go sir, take care”. He thanks me and starts his engine.
I deposit the tube in the pathology bag and move to the bin, where I methodically doff my PPE. I’m thankful for the cool breeze despite the sun, as my perspiration dries, and I begin to don again.