Robbed at the Airport
On Wednesday I was forced to pay money to enter my country.
I was travelling home from France, where I had been for six days and had won the Prix Marianne at the Pau literary festival Un aller-retour dans le noir. I flew from Paris to Amsterdam and from Amsterdam to Glasgow. When I tried to board the flight to Glasgow, I was told I had to pay, in advance, to Rainbow Labs, a private company, £54 for two Covid tests that would be mailed to me. I had to pay by card, not cash, and if I did not then I would not be allowed on the plane.
Never mind that I had lateral flow tests awaiting me at home. Never mind that I could get tested by the NHS. Never mind that France has far lower infection rates than Scotland, which last month had the highest in the world. Never mind that I could legally go straight from Glasgow airport to a crowded club and dance unmasked.
I asked one of the airline officials what would happen if a person did not have a credit or debit card, or enough money in their account to pay. The answer: “Hmmm… that’s a good question.”
I was tempted to ask what would happen if I refused to pay and was not allowed on the plane. Would I be stranded in Amsterdam? As I am no longer a European citizen, would the Netherlands deport me home, where I was trying to go anyway? I only refrained from asking because the official, a young black woman, was being shouted at and argued with by white male passengers who seemed to think she was responsible for the UK’s stupid, classist rules, and I did not want to add to her stress. She helped me and others fill out the required forms on our phones (it took nearly an hour), and I wondered what people who do not own smart phones are supposed to do.
My first of two tests is to be delivered today, and I feel tempted to refuse to share the result, but I do not want to cause the NHS any hassle. But the UK government’s business deal with a profiteer is another form of sickness.
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