Hurdle #3.5 The Covid Test

Where? When? What? How? How much???

October 5, 2020

Entry restrictions for foreigners to Taiwan in response to COVID-19 outbreak require Foreign nationals without an Alien Resident Certificate to provide a certificate of a negative COVID-19 test result issued within three days of boarding before they are allowed to board their flight or their transit flight, or to enter Taiwan. Those who wish to enter Taiwan must also undergo home quarantine for 14 days after entry into the country.

When I read the above, I freaked – three days, any three days before the flight, would be just about impossible to achieve. Read on and you understand why. So I looked into it and found this on how the three-day period is calculated:

1.Travelers should provide a certificate of a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test result issued by a medical institution within three days prior to boarding the flight, and the three-day period of such certificate means three working days. Therefore, national holidays in the country/regions where the traveler takes the COVID-19 test may be excluded.
2.The three-day period of such a certificate refers to the three days prior to the day of the flight, excluding the boarding day. …

Phew… this sounds more doable.

However… BC Medical Insurance does not pay for tests required for travel. The price tag is hefty – and getting heftier by the day. Only a handful of private clinics offer travel testing in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and most were solidly booked months in advance by the time I called. I was able to make an appointment with a clinic in North Vancouver – the closest to my island home in the Cowichan Valley. Oh yes, did I mention, no such tests for travel available on Vancouver Island! So add ferry travel costs to the price tag. Faking symptoms to get a “regular” test is just not my style (besides, I’ll be asked to self-isolate and this would put a chink in my travel plans.) Due to the rise in Covid cases and required tests, now the wait time for results is 3-5 days! Argh! I do my best to align ferry travel, test appointment, flight schedules and cross my fingers that it will all come together. The following bullets taken from the clinic’s website are not exactly reassuring:

  • We will do our very best to accommodate you before your essential travel, but we make no promises that you will receive results before your travel date. There are some things that are not within our control especially since we are not processing your test — LifeLabs is the company processing your test. 
  • We have no control on how quickly LifeLabs does your test. We cannot speed it up. We cannot make sure we get it back in a specified amount of time. We cannot guarantee your results will be available by a specific date.
  • The RT-PCR COVID-19 test is conducted by LifeLabs and is a laboratory validated assay for COVID-19. However, there is no guarantee that the COVID-19 test is 100% accurate. 
  • We do not hold any responsibility if you are denied boarding of your flight, or denied entry into your connecting or final destination as a result of the COVID-19 testing and/or letter of health you receive from us.

Okay, let’s take another deep breath. And keep breathing…

Another surprise was awaiting me at the appointed time. After completing identity verifications and providing proof that I have already paid the fee of $350, the friendly receptionist says, “ There will be an additional $75 charge – how would you like to pay for that?” My response… “What??? You’re kidding, right?!” As per booking website, completed payment and every communication I received orally and in writing, $350 is the total cost. No heads up notice even when they called the previous day! I’m having a hissy-fit while others look at me wide-eyed, and am taken to the backroom by the manager to discuss the details with her. She explains… it’s not the clinic raising the price from $350 to $425, it’s LifeLabs who have raised their prices from $120 to $195 because more staff had to be hired to keep up with all the Covid testing that needs to be done in the province. The majority of which is the “regular” non-travel related testing! Figure that! The clinic gets $230 of the $350 I paid. They have 5 rooms (or more) with 10-minute segments to test and disinfect, see six patients per hour in each room (!) – Do the math! This is very lucrative business for the clinics and the labs!

I stand my ground, refuse to pay anything extra, and throw in a little threat that I will go public about their business practices if I have to… The manager considers her options, agrees that not providing me with notice of the price hike is unfair and I’m given an exception.

Off to the test I go, which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone unless you get excited when a swap is deeply inserted and twirled in both nostrils (10 seconds each) until it makes your eyes water… Had to control the impulse to pull the nurses hands away from my face.

The following days I check my email frequently. Lucky me – as a BC resident with access to my ehealth, where I can access my Lifelabs reports, I receive the result Saturday night. I still have not received the promised email from the clinic and my flight is only 13 hours away… Hopefully, the print-out of this report will be enough. We’ll see tomorrow!

Kind of how it felt to sort through all this…

4 thoughts on “Hurdle #3.5 The Covid Test

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