Anne Marie Waters

Sunday 19th September 2021

My mother lives in Ireland. I have not seen her since 2018 and with threat of another lockdown hanging over us, I thought it best to visit her while I still can.

So I set about organising my journey.

Prior to 2020, going from England to Ireland was a simple affair. A cheap flight from Ryanair and off you went. There isn’t even any need for a passport. The most onerous part was getting to and from the airport.

Fast forward to 2021.

This time the cheap flights are gone. There’s been a noticeable hike. Then comes the mission of getting COVID clearance. To travel, you need to show that you are not carrying a virus that somehow now dominates every aspect of our lives.

They say follow the money, and it’s always true. Lots of people are making lots of money from COVID. Randox Health is one.

Trying to shop around for COVID PCR tests confirms with certainty that this is now an industry. Most of the tests that provide a certificate for travel are more than £50, many of them over £100. This is the price for each person travelling, so if there are a few of you, you could be billed for £100s before you even buy a flight.

I booked a ‘same day test’ at Stansted Airport. £65. It means turning up to Stansted the day before travelling, paying ridiculous parking charges, and queueing up for access to a ‘testing centre’ (basically a shed) in a car park.

Here’s what happens: I presented my pre-paid £65 test appointment record and passport at Randox Health. Then I was handed a little plastic envelope to take to a booth. The person who handed me the envelope wasn’t wearing gloves and was handing out package after package. On arrival at the booth, a person dressed like Darth Vader greeted me.

From there, I handed over my little plastic envelope to a gloveless woman. She proceeded to put on her gloves and then open the envelope. I’m not a doctor but that didn’t make a great deal of sense to me – putting on gloves and then handling the envelope that has just been handled by me and one other person.

Then she spoke to me. I couldn’t hear what she was saying because her face was covered with layers of plastic. Eventually I figured out that she’s telling me to put my head back.  She took a single swab and put it down my throat. Then the same swab went in to both sides of my nose. Then in to a little container.

It look and felt like theatre. A show.

After that, I waited for my results, which arrived within an hour or so.  The result was negative, so I’m allowed to travel.  I must present this result at the check-in desk before boarding.

Travel has always been stressful, but travel, like life in general, has just become much more stressful, much more difficult (and that’s before we even mention parking).

I doubt I will be visiting Ireland again for some time. But then I suppose that’s the idea.

Anne Marie Waters 


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