Taking Our First Rapid Antigen Self Test on our Fifth Day in Mauritius

According to the entry rules for Mauritius in 2021, we had to do a covid-19 rapid antigen self test on the fifth day. This was the first time we did a different test from the PCR test.

Buying Our First Rapid Antigen Self Test

December 6th, 2021

After making an appointment at a local dentist in Mahébourg and eating lunch, we walked past a pharmacy called Al-Shafa.

“Tomorrow is our fifth day here, right? That means we have to do the covid test” I say to Jonas.

“Already?” he replies, taking a moment to think. “No, the day after tomorrow is the fifth day.”

I count in my head and ask “So we don’t count the day of arrival as the first day?” And Jonas confidently shakes his head in no, of course not.

But it’s not a bad idea to already buy the tests now. You never know if they’re suddenly hard to find or unavailable. So we walk into the pharmacy.

al-shafa medical pharmacy Mahébourg Mauritius 2021 travel covid-19

A lady behind a counter with plexiglass first tells Jonas to take off his mask so she can speak to him better, saying “We’re safe here” while pointing at the barrier. Never mind that the plexiglass has giant holes in it. Strange. Is this a trap?

Counterintuitive to all things pharmacy, Jonas takes off his mask and asks for the rapid antigen self test. Perhaps now that the topic is covid-19, she will want us to put our masks back on? But what’s done is done and they’re talking to each other without masks—with me a masked bystander who feels out of place.

The lady finds a rapid antigen self test and shoves it through an even bigger gap in the plexiglass so we can analyze it. The box says “CoviFind” and also antigen self test and 15 minutes. It looks like the real deal. But also this is our first of such tests so we don’t know what kind of caveats we’re looking for.

The price for one test was Rs. 260 (€5.28 or US$5.96) and we needed two of them. We could not pay by card, which is not a surprise in Mauritius. We took the tests home in a paper bag and put them in the fridge because it’s too hot to keep them outside.

How Would the Mauritian Government Check?

If you’ve not done any covid-19 tests at all yet and none of this makes sense, please first familiarize yourself with the great diversity of covid-19 tests out there in the world. The big ones are ‘PCR test’ and ‘rapid antigen test’. These two tests search for particles of the virus in your nose and/or throat mucus. You can read more about them on Wikipedia.

Of course, this entire entry regulation begs the question: who will take the effort to check if we did the test?

Well, first of all, we had to give our address and phone number at every step of entering Mauritius once we were at the airport. This phone number was of our host Marie and not our own because we hadn’t had the chance to buy a Mauritian SIM card yet. And our Turkish SIM cards were dead on arrival in Mauritius since there’s no roaming agreement. Also, I don’t pick up when I don’t know the phone number so there’s that.

Theoretically, someone of the health ministry or whatever could call our host Marie and – after some confusion about why a Mauritian citizen is picking up – ask her if her Airbnb guests completed the test. Or someone could come by our address and ask or even check if we did the test. The phone call allows people to just lie about it and the door-to-door visit would be expensive and a lot of effort.

But the way they’d check our 5th-day rapid antigen self test – if they check it at all – was very unclear. Perhaps they made that intentionally unclear so you feel a little on edge until you do the self test. Perhaps they won’t check and we wasted €11 on a test we already knew would be negative. But who am I to argue with a country’s entry regulation, especially since I want to stay here for a few months.

There’s also the possibility that only tourists who stay in well-known resorts, hotels, and guest houses have their 5th-day test checked. That would mean the government looked at our Airbnb address and decided to 80/20 it and skip us.

The fact is, we don’t know.

Edited to add: if you’ve come to Mauritius and someone checked your 5th-day test, please comment below to let all of us know about it!

5th Day is Here, Let’s Take a Covid-19 Test

December 8th, 2021

Time flies, we’re already here for five days!

We decide we want to do the self tests before eating and before we go to the dentist. If we’re going to sit there while he works on our unmasked mouths gaping open, I guess it’s nice to know that we’re negative for covid-19 (if he asks).

We grab the rapid antigen self tests from the fridge and begin to read the box. It says something about downloading an app to send photographs of the results with a QR code to the… ministry of health or something. Did we completely underestimate how advanced these tests are? And how IT-centric Mauritius is? Is this why no one will have to come to our home to check if we did the test?

Once we’re in the Google and Apple app stores to download the app, it says we can’t download it because of our location. It takes some Googling, but it apparently refers to the ministry of health of India, not Mauritius. It’s an imported product.

Jonas finishes reading the whole manual and then goes for it. He unpacks the testing liquid, the test device, and the swab. There’s a spot on the box you can push in to keep the testing liquid upright if you do the test by yourself. He swabs both his nostrils five times, then drops it in the liquid and swirls it in there. Then he squishes the tube to get that last mucus out and breaks off the stick of the swab so the cap can go on top of it. The cap has a hole in it for precision drops. Jonas squeezes out four drops into the test device. We see the liquid travel up the test device and turn the blue control line into a red line. There is no line appearing at the test line, not even a faint one.

Now he has to wait 15 minutes for the final results.

It’s my turn and I follow the same steps, during which Jonas takes some photos for me as evidence. It’s nice that the swab doesn’t have to go in that deep, just until “resistance is met”. The downside is that you don’t know if it’s good enough since we’re not medical professionals. After swirling it in the liquid, I give it a good squeeze. I drop the four drops in the test device 9 minutes after Jonas’ test. I see the liquid travel up the test very fast and again the blue control line turns red while the test area remains silent.

Silent is good.

Meanwhile, Jonas’ test is done. We know that because he set alarms for both of our tests. His test is clearly negative as there’s no sign of a line in the test area. We decide to prepare our food and nine minutes later, I check my test. No surprise, it’s also clearly negative. I take more photos as evidence with the QR codes on the box in the picture. Just in case someone comes to check.

After 20 minutes, the tests have become invalid. Both tests come with biohazard disposal bags. To exist is to be a biohazard. I drop all the test stuff in there, seal it, and put them back in their respective boxes. We’ll toss the evidence of these tests later when we’re sure that no one comes to ask us about it.

Good info? Consider buying me a bottle of spiced rum!

Open in wallet

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One photo by Drew Hays and another by  Annie Spratt sourced from Unsplash

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