So I got a PCR Test in Japan (lucky me)

In Japan, PCR tests are as precious as gold and much, much rarer. If you don’t have above 37.5 degree temperature, contact history with someone who has tested positive, you have to do some serious arm twisting to get one.

Sunday night. After a good, hard work out I started having some muscle pains. Okay, so I’m approaching my mid-thirties, not too surprising? But the muscle pains spread to my whole body and my throat is sore. Monday morning. Muscle pains still live and well and now my body doesn’t want to get out of bed. After the obligatory Google search of my symptoms, I conclude it could be a lot of different things, but I can’t rule out COVID-19. Not to mention that Minister Nishimura has just publicly asked anyone with discomfort in their throat to stay within their prefecture.

Unluckily, I had lost my thermometer (I’m tempted to blame my toddler) so I had no idea of my real temperature. Weakness number one.

Faithfully, I called the Tokyo COVID-19 Consultation Hotline to report my symptoms. “Have you been in close contact with someone who has tested positive?” “I don’t know.” “Hmmm, and your temperature is how much?” “I don’t know, maybe 37.3?” “And your regular temperature is?” “36.8?” “Your Japanese sounds like you are from a different country, where are you from?” “Why is that important?” “Well, you might have travelled outside of the country recently…” “Maybe you’re not aware, but foreigners cannot come back into Japan right now so that is impossible” … etc.

My next step, in any case, was to visit the closest designated clinic and be examined there.

At the clinic, I was directed to ring the bell, then guided into a partitioned-off section of the clinic which had a bench, hand sanitizer, and some kleenex. The doctor and nurses, all three wrapped up in PPE, asked me the same questions, but this time I took my temperature and it was 38.5. Well over the guideline of 37.5. Still, it took some pushing.

“So you said you haven’t been in close contact with someone who tested positive? Hmmm” “I don’t think so. But actually, XXXX.” (Information withheld for privacy reasons) “Ah, and so you are worried about that?” “I think I should be?” “…Well, we are being told not to test right now, but okay, we’ll see what we can do.”

After a check with a large hospital two stops away, the doctor found out that there was a 3-day waiting period. Thankfully, I was given another option of a university hospital a 20-minute walk from my house. “Tell absolutely no one where this testing site is,” I was cautioned.

The next morning at 10am, I arrived, showed my letter of introduction, and sat in a partitioned area with emergency tape enforcing social distancing in the seats. An elderly couple sat in front of me, the woman with an ice pack wrapped in a scarf and applied to her neck. “What could have brought them here,” I wondered. On my left was a middle-aged man. A well-dressed and sprightly man distributed forms confirming our agreement to receive the test, coming and going with a waft of cologne. Finally , it’s my turn.

I’m guided quickly into another room partitioned off and ushered behind a DIY-ed plastic shield of sorts with holes for the medical practitioner’s hands. “I’ll swab both of your nostrils, so please lift your chin up.” Jab. The swab was stuck deep in my left nostril into soft tissue I had never been aware of. “We’ll keep it here for 5 seconds and then do the right side.” My eyes teared up. It was over, and I left the hospital crying and a little shell-shocked.

According to the documents, I’ll have my results in a day or two. Fingers crossed it’s just a cold or something.

Update: 6 hours after my test, the results are in, and I am negative. Phew.


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