Special report: the agonising disease affecting millions of women each day

Excruciating pain. Unmanageably heavy periods. Anger and frustration at not being heard or helped. The women who suffer this torment aren’t statistics. These are their stories. These are their lives. Philippa Blakeley reports.

The agonising disease afflicting millions of women each day
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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.

Covid-19 changes lives…but not in a good way

By Kira Gibson

Every single day thousands of people contract Covid-19, but nobody is 100 per cent sure how long it will take to recover from it. 

The NHS has a webpage dedicated to helping people understand and deal with the symptoms that might be left over after having coronavirus – however this webpage isn’t well publicised and does not appear at the top of internet searches. 

The name given to the symptoms and problems that can occur after the original ten days of isolation and illness is “post-Covid-19 syndrome” or “long Covid”. 

Long Covid isn’t widely talked about so many people don’t know what to expect after the initial sickness has passed – but everyone knows what to look for when you have the virus. 

Reece Classick (21) is dealing with some of the symptoms named on the NHS website that will still be around after leaving isolation. 

Reece Classick, 21. Photo credit: Reece Classick

He started having symptoms on December 28 and quickly realised it was Covid-19 and got tested. 

He suffered with the main symptoms listed by the Government to look out for (cough, loss/change to taste and smell and a high temperature) as well as joint and muscle pain, trouble breathing and chest pain. 

He left isolation 22 days later, but nearly five weeks after the official ten-day isolation ended, Mr Classick is still suffering with breathlessness and pain in his chest, joints and muscles. 

He said: “The worst bit was realising that the tight chest and shortness of breath is a long-term thing.

“Things like walking around or sitting up knock the wind out of you and it’s like you don’t feel you’re breathing enough even though you are. 

“Like you feel you can’t breathe but actually you’re breathing fine? But that’s all psychosomatic stuff – like your brain is used to breathing deeper and longer than you can?

“It’s bad in the short term and recovery is nasty in the long run, but the sickness passed pretty quickly (8-9 days) and then it’s just pain all over for me.” 

Mr Classick didn’t have any prior respiratory problems such as asthma when he caught the illness. For more information on Long Covid or what to expect after having the virus, please go to https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/long-term-effects-of-coronavirus-long-covid/ or alternatively go directly to https://www.yourcovidrecovery.nhs.uk/managing-the-effects/effects-on-your-body/ to find out about a specific part of your recovery. 

Door to door COVID-19 testing returns to Leicester

By Beatriz Abreu Ferreira

Door to door COVID-19 testing will be again used in areas of Leicester with higher infection rates.

Households in areas with high infection rates will be asked to take swab tests, even if they do not have any symptoms of coronavirus.

A similar approach was followed over the summer which helped the city’s infection rate go down to 25 per 100,000 people.

Alongside this measure, there will continue to be rapid lateral flow testing, and the city’s walk-in and drive-in test centres.

De Montfort asks: ‘Are You Okay?’

By Erik Dawson

De Montfort University Students’ Union launched its ‘Are You Okay?’ campaign to help combat mental health and wellbeing issues on campus this Monday (NOV30).

The campaign has been created to give students a space to let the university know how they are feeling, and what they can do to support them.

In a video posted to the DSU website, Academic Executive Laura Flowers said: “I think especially this time of year it can be tough. It can be harder for everybody let alone in a pandemic.”

‘Are You Okay?’: Academic Executive, Laura Flowers introduces the campaign.

‘Are You Okay’ is currently a survey focused on isolation and loneliness at DMU, with each result helping the university create an action plan to help students.

Ex DMU student Paschal Nnedu is no stranger to the negative effects that university life can result in.

“I got depressed and suffered with really bad anxiety while I was at University, the pressure of deadlines coupled with bad results made me feel like I didn’t have what it took.” He said.

The ‘Are You Okay’ survey aims to support the university’s existing health and wellbeing services, by offering a more personalised space where students issues can be identified easily.

Paschal said: “I was aware there was a service to help, but waiting times were so long that I never used them, especially as I didn’t want to take up the limited space instead of people who had it worse than me.”

The campaign will constantly be adapting to cater to students needs throughout the year.

“I don’t know what the next steps are going to be. What I can tell you is it is going to be reactive to exactly what you need.” Academic Executive Laura said in the video.

‘Are You Okay’ has been well received on campus and even by ex-students. Paschal said: “It’s a great campaign and makes speaking about your issues so much easier and more accessible.”

Over the coming weeks, the scheme will highlight support services available, as well as introducing competitions and activities for students to get involved in.

More information can be found on the DSU website as well as their social media accounts, and the survey is available here.