As the nation continues to progress through the first phase of the vaccine rollout, older Australians can finally sigh a breath of relief.

However, COVID-19 will continue to impact the lives of those in the second and third phases, my age group included.

Being geographically isolated has been a great advantage for towns like Narrabri over the last 12 months, with many locals never even having to experience the test swab.

But, while we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, COVID-19 is far from over and it’s important we remain safe.

Other than keeping up to date with the news and following health and safety protocols – such as checking in to venues via the Service NSW app – the only other thing we can do is ensure we are well-informed.

According to the NSW Government, “if you have a fever (37.5°C or higher), cough, sore or scratchy throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, or loss of taste or smell, you should get tested for COVID-19, even if your symptoms are mild.”

The website goes on to say that “other reported symptoms of COVID-19 include fatigue (tiredness), acute blocked nose (congestion), muscle pain, joint pain, headache, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, unexplained chest pain and conjunctivitis.”

You also have the option of getting tested, without any symptoms, if you’re worried you’ve been in close contact with someone who’s sick.

But since Narrabri has been so lucky throughout the pandemic, a lot of local people may be scared to get tested, for fear of the unknown.

So, I thought I’d share my experience as a twice-tested, immune-compromised, youth.

The first thing you need to know is there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Medical professionals administer these tests, and have done it time and time again across the world.

The next thing you need to know is that it doesn’t hurt – while the throat and nasal swab is an odd sensation, it’s only a moment of discomfort and then it’s over.

If one of your symptoms is congestion, the swab may be a little more uncomfortable, but is nothing to be worried about.

Rather than the painful feeling you may have been led to believe, the aftermath is mostly just a tingling sensation and sometimes brings on the need to sneeze.

These swabs are sent away for testing and you can now receive your results, via text message, within a day or two.

Tests are free and there’s lots of clinics across the country that can do it for you.

If you live in Narrabri, you can get tested at Narrabri District Health Service or Ochre Health – Narrabri Respiratory Clinic.

In Boggabri, the testing facilities include Boggabri Multi-Purpose Service and Ochre Health – Boggabri Respiratory Clinic.

Meanwhile in Wee Waa, the Wee Waa Community Hospital and Wee Waa Respiratory Clinic are both available for COVID-19 testing.

All clinics, as well as their addresses and opening hours, can be found here.

The rollout is set to take months, and we can’t become complacent in the meantime.

Head to your nearest testing site if you have any symptoms, or are worried about a place/person you’ve recently visited.

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