Hypocrisy and neglect: The government’s handling of student COVID-19 testing

DMU journalism student Samuel Hornsby gives his opinion on the contradictions of coronavirus testing for uni students.

Photograph by Tim Dennell: Accessed via Creative Commons.

Down by the River Soar sits The Watershed, a building which usually houses sports events for De Montfort University.

Recently, though, as there have been no sporting events, the budding has been transformed into an NHS Test and Trace centre capable of mass testing for students and staff alike.

Before returning to in-person teaching, students are required to undergo two lateral flow tests taken three days apart – and the facility is offering booked appointments at the venue to test all students.

For those travelling back to in-term accommodation for upcoming face-to-face study it is ideal. Only a short walk from the campus and the building can handle the high capacity of rapid tests that are imperative to ensure an outbreak does not occur.

Everything seems peachy – until you factor in commuting students. For them being tested prior to returning isn’t a simple as one may initially think.

If such a student had to travel in for the test on public transport and then tested positive, then they are knowingly putting people in danger when travelling back. Clearly, this is not an ideal or practical situation.

However, the university has clarified if there are local testing facilities nearer to the student’s home, they can use those instead. This seems to be the ideal solution to the problem and minimises risk.

Unfortunately trying to get tested locally as a university student is a Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare with each department just as bewildered and confused as the last who throw you from person to person like a game of pass-the-parcel.

Let’s go through the journey of finding out where you can get tested locally and try not to pull your hair out in frustration.

The natural place to start is the government booking website where you put in your postcode and then get sent to the page of your relevant county council. On there it lists all the testing sites. When you search up said sites you realise although they are called walk-in centres you still have to book before the test. Fine. There’s a phone number so this shouldn’t be a problem.

The phone number does not go through to the testing centre and is instead a generic NHS number. They have a list of testing sites but not how to book at those sites, so they recommend contacting the district council. This is because they are a smaller body that should know more about specific local testing in your area. Turns out they don’t.

District Councils only have the same list as the NHS which provides the names of facilities without any further information, but they do give you the government website to book through. A huge leap forward, it’s just a shame that leap is into a previously unseen pit.

When booking through the government website you have to provide a reason for why you wish to be tested.

Reasons include: being an essential worker, showing symptoms of coronavirus or have been invited to receive a test as part of a trail amongst other possible criteria.

School students are also allowed to have access to such tests through booking, but this excludes university students who if they do not any other criteria will be greeted with a message of not being eligible to book a test at this point in time.

This begs the question as to why they cannot access local testing centres, especially when school children, as well as sixth form and college students, can. It was the same government policy that told them to go back to in-person education. That policy didn’t specify university or school, it simply said ‘students’, yet where they get easily accessible testing, university students do not.

If you are lucky enough to live in a city, then you may find yourself able to access a non-bookable community asymptomatic testing site for those living in rural areas these are not an option as they only cater to the boroughs in which they are set up.

Furthermore, to rub that extra bit of salt in the wound, to order a home test kit from the government website you must once again fall under a category from the aforementioned list of criteria that excludes those at university.

When trying to find a way to test locally an NHS staff member on the phone admitted they have had to tell people to simply lie in order to get the tests they require. They confessed it may not be moral but they aren’t being given other options.

So, if you are a commuting student, good luck, stay safe and cross your fingers the government will be more consistent with their next set of COVID-19 policies.

ALBUM REVIEW: Murky melodies and melancholic crooning on Carnage, the new release by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis

Samuel Hornsby reviews ‘Carnage’, the newest musical outing by Australian duo Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

Warren Ellis and Nick Cave: Photo by Takahiro Kyono via. Creative Commons

The musical content of ‘Carnage’ swoops in and hovers calmly like a kestrel. It looms there in a desolate sky filled with the haunting sounds of gloomy hope and downcast romance. The album encourages you to gaze upon its twisted beauty, as do I.

It is the first non-soundtrack by the Australian duo Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, who had previously worked on the scores for several films together including the epic western ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’, the dystopian survivalist story ‘The Road’ and the gritty Aussie odyssey ‘The Proposition’.

Their first venture into an album of independent vision as a duo is a powerful piece filled with stunning melodies and carefully crafted lyrics. It is peppered throughout with some of the usual markings one may be accustomed to from Nick Cave releases but at the same time remains its own beast thanks to the help of experienced sideman Warren Ellis.

Ellis first began working with Cave in 1993 as a session musician for The Bad Seeds’ album ‘Let Love In’. Soon after he would become a permanent fixture and an integral collaborative force for Cave helping write songs for the band and co-founding the side group ‘Grinderman’.

At this point in time, they feel like equals at their craft. The duo fuse their expertise creating such a well-blended, inventive sound it can often feel like a ballroom dance in which you cannot tell which partner is leading.

The compositions the twosome have conceived are masterfully crafted with layers of dark and murky melodies placed neatly on top of a solid foundation of hypnotising, meditative electronic loops.

This style feels like a natural progression of the sound developed by Cave and Ellis on the previous Bad Seeds album ‘Ghosteen’. The sonic landscape is a clean and ethereal piece of chamber pop with splashes of ambience and the odd jolt of rock poking through in the form of quick snippets of distorted guitars.

As the album progresses, it leads you in to bathe in its placid aural waters, but if you are not careful it will pull you out to lonely depths. Luckily, Cave’s vocal prescience acts as a poetic anchor in the desolate ocean of minimalistic sound.

His voice drips with melancholy as he croons harrowing lines that paint lyrical stories about the touch of the hand of God, crazed men dancing on balconies and a masculinised version of Venus De Milo shooting people with a gun made of elephant tears.

Though often cryptic and surreal, Cave weaves in profound meaning and weight into the songs. He does this by lacing references to current day social issues such as the George Floyd murders which inevitably add a more serious and touching piece of emotion to his lyrical broth.

‘Carnage’ proves to be a triumph for both Cave and Ellis showing they still have the strength of their creativity and talent even as they descend into what one could consider the Autumn of their years. It also proves they can craft excellence as a pair without the direction of a film to guide the music or a wider band to flesh out and form it.