I can totally understand all those people who have decided not to go abroad this year because of the cost of Covid testing and the complicated and confusing advice about quarantine rules.
If only I’d known what I would have to go through, I would have made the same decision myself.
But for the past three years, I have been away on a selfish girly retreat to Portugal – no kids, no husband, just me and my friend on a detox, soaking up the sun.
I longed to do the same again this summer, so – thinking that by now everything would be back to normal – I booked again.
Sadly, it turns out we are still in a pandemic, and I completely understand that people have to be accountable for their travelling to keep everyone safe.
But the whole system for those wanting to fly only goes to highlight the post-pandemic inequality there is in this country.
Having been through the “Covid testing to fly” experience, I understand why people say there is one rule for them and another rule for us.
The system is geared up only for those who have the money, the ability to access information, and the time to do research to get the best possible deals.
The first thing I had to do to prepare for my trip was to actually make sense of the ever-changing information, so I went to the Government website.
Surely there would be a simple explanation about what I had to do to fly out and my responsibilities upon my return? Well, it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
I had to click link after link to find the relevant information.
I’m computer-savvy and have the time to do this, but what if you don’t have access to a computer? And even if you can access it, what if you don’t understand the information?
I consider myself a smart woman – I have two degrees – but I was left dazed and confused trying to make sense of all the requirements.
I had to read the information about three times before I understood which Covid test to take on what day.
Then I had to find out where to take the tests. Why isn’t this information centralised so that everyone knows where to access it and everyone pays the same price?
When I typed “PCR test for travel” into the search engine, the results were astounding.
The cost of PCR tests ranged from £74 to £149, from having them at a local centre to having them at home, and with different delivery prices and certificates to travel sent via mobile phones or via email.
I paid £149 for a same-day result, 72 hours before I travel. The test took less than 30 seconds. Afterwards, I took to social media to vent my frustration.
The responses came in thick and fast – “it’s a total rip-off”, “it’s a disgrace”, “how can families possibly afford them?”
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And don’t even get me started on the skills and time required to upload all the documents on to the airline’s website to check in.
I haven’t a clue what I have to do on my return because the rules change all the time.
But I do know that it’s an unfair system which penalises the less well-off. And that’s just not right.