The cruelty of testing whack-a-mole

This ritual circus must be stopped

Throughout the pandemic, there was always the mantra of ‘protecting the vulnerable’. Given this, it has been extremely disturbing to witness the horrific treatment of care home residents, who are arguably the most vulnerable members of society.

Inhumane policy decisions were ushered in over 2 years ago and appear to show no signs of being removed any time soon, in spite of a very different set of circumstances now than we saw in March 2020 along with clear signs in the data that the circulating virus is less virulent now, as one would naturally expect over time.

No adequate risk-assessments for the various NPIs have been forthcoming and in particular the huge psychological harms that result from extended periods of isolation, particularly in those with dementia and related disorders. One feels that there has been a complete departure from basic common sense and humanity on all fronts. We are now over 2 years in. There is simply no excuse to persist with this institutionally normalised mistreatment of the residents and their relatives.

The draconian restrictions vary widely from home to home, follow no coherent ‘science’ and are being enacted outside of any current government guidelines. The whims of the managers mean that one is basically playing the lottery in selecting a facility. It would perhaps be savvy for business-minded care home managers to recognise a huge gap in the market for people who want to move away from draconian restrictions and return to 2019 norms. They may find their wait-lists filling up extremely fast. 

The various directives invoked seem to have taken on the qualities of witchcraft; ritualistic, changeable and completely pointless. A ‘positive test’ of a resident or staff member (whether they exhibit symptoms or not) may result in a ten day ‘lockdown’, with all visits suspended and ‘bubbles’ created to minimise mixing. Given the high false positive rate, one could be playing lockdown whack-a-mole for the foreseeable future until the management comes to their senses, all the while robbing residents of precious time with loved ones. Why would any care home facility want to minimise access to loved one for those at the very end of their life? What are they ‘saving’ them from? This heart-breaking account outlines the real-life horror of these bureaucratic sins. 

There is a very simple solution to all of it: abandon the addiction to constant testing. Outbreaks have continued to occur at expected levels despite all efforts. Why is this practice ongoing? We urge a rapid rethink in this sector. The testing is fraught with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and now that we are dealing with less virulent variants, it is unnecessary, disruptive and invasive. 

Aside from the manufacturers and testing centres, it is hard to think of a single person who has benefitted from this completely inappropriate obsession with regular mass-testing. We say enough is enough!

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