What should have been the trip of a lifetime for a Mum and her eleven-year-old Downs Syndrome son nearly turned into a complete disaster after staff at a Covid test centre in Finland refused to take cash payment for an Antigen test.
And to make matters worse it turned out she didn’t need to take the test at all.
Sharon Hayes from Navan had saved up for three years to bring her son Josh on a trip to Lapland to meet the main man, Santa Claus, and as luck would have it the pair flew out on December 1st the day the government here declared that people entering Ireland had to display a negative Antigen or PCR test.
Sharon recalls, ‘I had been given a present of a hotel voucher and we used that to stay in the Clayton Hotel near Dublin airport on the Tuesday night as we had an early flight the next day.
‘On Tuesday afternoon at just after four o clock our travel agent rang me to tell me about the new rules that were coming into force and reassured me I could do the test in the Saaga hotel in Lapland. When she told me I immediately asked her did they take cash and she said they did.
‘I do have a bank account but use it solely for direct debits, I have a bank card but I had taken all the cash out to bring with me on holiday.
‘At that time of day the banks were closed so there was no way I could even lodge the money into my account, but when I was told they took the cash I thought it would be grand.
‘We headed off on Wednesday and were due to return home on Saturday, when we got to the hotel I asked at reception if they took cash for the tests, and again I was told they did,’
On Thursday when the duo was returning to the hotel on a tour bus an elf called Rudolph came over and told Sharon her test was at 9.30 on Friday morning.
That’s when things took a turn for the worse.
Sharon explains, ‘Since Covid hit last year Josh has developed a fear of people who wear PPE gear, he calls them all’ China’, as he knows that is where the virus began, but they terrify him, so when we went into the testing room he was very shaky.
‘I managed to settle him down and went up to register at which point the woman asked me for my bank card, I explained I was paying by cash and she looked through me and said, ‘No card no test’, at first I thought maybe she meant my card to show I was vaccinated, which after she saw that she still said, ‘No card no test’.
‘I started panicking because I could visualise myself and Josh not being able to get back into Ireland or me having to isolate for days and days.
‘Then this man, he is called Patrick and is from Cork, that is all I know about him, stepped in asked me to explain what was going on and agreed that when I paid him the €99 cost of the test he would pay for it on his card.
‘I handed him two-fifty euro notes and the job was Oxo, he paid and I got tested.’
When she went for the test Sharon had left her phone on charge and when she switched it back on she saw numerous texts telling her the new rules governing entry or return to Ireland had been deferred until the next day Sunday, therefore, she never needed the test at all!
‘I was gutted after all I gone through had my stress levels go through the roof and was down €100 when I didn’t need to be.
‘The whole episode took the good out of it for me, I went through all that for nothing, I swear I am not the better of it yet.’