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'I caught Covid in quarantine system', British woman tells LBC

27 July 2021, 07:40

Rachael Venables

By Rachael Venables

A British woman returning from Dubai has exclusively told LBC she believes she caught coronavirus while going through the quarantine system.

Grace Cunningham, a 29-year-old teacher from Bromley, has been living in the city in the UAE for the past three years but decided she would return home to work in the UK.

However, despite landing at Heathrow Airport on 11 July, Ms Cunningham is still self-isolating in a room at Imperial London's President Hotel in Russell Square after testing positive for Covid-19.

The teacher tested negative for the virus twice - before her flight and on day two of isolation - but eight days after landing she returned a positive test and began developing symptoms.

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"I was really gutted and upset." She said she had not seen many members of her family for more than two years.

"I avoided travel last year... I didn't think it was the right thing to do, whereas this year I've had to travel but there have been all of these restrictions in place."

The 29-year-old added that she is convinced she caught coronavirus either on the coach after her flight or from the hotel itself.

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"The travel from the airport to the hotel is where I feel like I've come into contact and picked it up," she told LBC.

"We were put on a coach - me and two other people from my flight - and we had to sit on that for an hour-and-a-half while we waited for other passengers from different flights to come in.

"About an hour-and-a-half later, around 14 other passengers came onto the coach, from all over the world."

She added: "We were in a big coach, but they'd only let us sit in the back half. They wouldn't let us sit in the front half."

Ms Cunningham told LBC the journey from Heathrow to her quarantine hotel took more than five hours as the vehicle needed to drop people off at other hotels in the capital.

"The staff who were on the coach weren't very helpful at all," she continued.

"The guy who was in charge of conducting it all - we all had to fill out a form - he was passing that round to us using the same pen.

"He had it in his mouth some of the times. His mask kept coming under his chin."

Ms Cunningham explained that before she tested positive, she was only allowed to leave her room to go outside in the courtyard for exercise.

"The outside area... is mostly taken up by this huge bush, which is about the size of two double beds put together, and you just walk round and round and round it," she said

The 29-year-old claimed the security guards would not enforce social distancing measures when escorting people to and from the courtyard, even asking guests to cram into a small lift in order to get downstairs.

"The mask-wearing (of security staff); sometimes they've got them up, sometimes they've got them below their chins. It's the same with people who deliver stuff to my room."

She also said communication within the hotel has been poor, with the lobby repeatedly ignoring her requests and concerns.

Meanwhile, Ms Cunningham also alleged that the hotel room had not been deep cleaned or hoovered upon arrival after she found dirt and hair on the floor and stains on the linen.

Asked where she thinks she caught the virus, she replied: "I know that it's either from that coach or from the hotel."

After testing positive for the virus on day eight of quarantining, she claimed hotel staff expressed shock.

Following numerous phone calls, she was finally put through to a liaison officer who told her she would need to remain in isolation. However, she was not asked to pay to stay for an extra 10 days.

But she was also not allowed to go outside for exercise, despite explaining to LBC that one hotel worker told her mother she would be able to.

"These last two weeks have been a real, real struggle, especially knowing that I was going home and going to see my family, and then a day before getting that taken away," she said.

"The most frustrating thing about it is that, before I flew, I had a house to go to that was empty, that had a garden, that nobody was going to be in, so for me to go into this when I've got that house... I've found it a real struggle."

She added: "It does feel like a prison because I can't even go outside now."

Asked whether she thought she might have caught Covid while on the plane, she said: "We all had a row to ourselves on the plane. It was not full at all.

"Staff and passengers were consistent with masks, they only came down when people were eating.

"You can't rule it out, but the rules that were in place and how people were acting on the plane was far, far better than what I've experienced since landing."

Imperial Hotels declined to comment.

A government spokesperson said: “Our top priority has always been protecting the public and the robust border and testing regime we have in place is helping minimise the risk of new variants spreading in the UK.

“In the first instance guests should raise any issues directly with the managed quarantine hotel. Hotels are expected to maintain high standards and we require that they do their utmost to address those concerns.”

Additional reporting from Nick Hardinges.