Hotel quarantine guests express frustration at tougher border rules

15 February 2021, 18:45

Roger Goncalves, who is from Brazil and travelled via Madrid to get to the UK, waves from the window of Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel
Roger Goncalves, who is from Brazil and travelled via Madrid to get to the UK, waves from the window of Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Some of the first guests to check into quarantine hotels have expressed their frustration at tougher border rules.

UK and Irish nationals and UK residents returning to England from a country deemed at high risk for Covid-19 must now self-isolate in hotels.

The rule applies to people returning to Scotland from any destination.

Read more: PM: Vaccine passports for foreign travel 'in the mix' but you won't need one for pub trips

One traveller quarantining at the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel near Heathrow Airport said he was "feeling sad" at the prospect of isolating for 11 nights.

Speaking over the phone, delivery driver Roger Goncalves, 23, who lives in London, said: "I did my test for coronavirus. The test was negative. Why do I need to stay in my room?"

Security escort passengers as they arrive at a hotel near Heathrow Airport, London, to begin a 10 day quarantine period
Security escort passengers as they arrive at a hotel near Heathrow Airport, London, to begin a 10 day quarantine period. Picture: PA

He explained he had tried to fly back from Brazil last week - before the requirement to quarantine in a hotel was in place - but his airline cancelled his flight.

He described the £1,750 cost of staying in the hotels as "crazy".

Asked how he will spend the time in his room, Mr Goncalves said he would "watch TV, watch Netflix".

Another traveller who checked into the hotel on Monday was Zari Tadayon, 66, from north London, who had been in Dubai to attend to "legal matters".

She said: "I feel horrible because I live here, I have my own individual home, and also I have some medical issues which I was hoping they would consider that.

"How I'm going to cope I don't know. It's going to be tough. I'm not prepared. I didn't bring books and stuff."

Travellers arriving in England must quarantine in a hotel if they have been in one of the Government's 33 "red list" countries - which covers Portugal, the United Arab Emirates, South America and southern Africa - in the past 10 days.

The UK has banned direct flights from those locations, so passengers must take connecting flights, mixing with passengers from countries not on the list.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds claimed the policy "creates an unacceptable risk to the health of the British people".

He continued: "The public will not forgive the UK Government for getting this wrong."

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said the Government is "at risk of undermining its own quarantine policy".

She went on: "The whole point of these measures is to prevent new variants from spreading - but that won't happen if there are still too many holes in the system."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman defended the arrangements, stating that the Government is "working closely with airlines and carriers who are ensuring that the flights they provide are Covid secure".

He went on: "In UK airports there are different processes for if you come from a red list country, or if you don't", such as a "separated baggage reclaim section".

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said last week that the number of people returning from "red list" countries "probably comes to less than 1,000 a day".

Passengers arriving at airports are being escorted by security personnel to coaches which take them to nearby hotels.

Heathrow raised fears over the weekend about "significant gaps" in the programme, but a spokesman said its implementation "came into effect successfully" with queues at the border "currently less than an hour long", compared with nearly five hours in recent days.

People required to enter the quarantine hotel programme must enter England or Scotland through a designated airport and have pre-booked a package to stay at one of the Government's managed facilities.

These are Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Farnborough, Birmingham, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

No international flights are operating to Wales or Northern Ireland.

The Government has struck deals with 16 hotels so far, providing 4,963 rooms, with a further 58,000 rooms currently on stand-by, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

People must quarantine in the hotel room but exceptions allowing them to leave include the need for urgent medical assistance, to exercise or attend the funeral of a close family member.

The regulations state that leaving for these exceptional reasons should only happen if the person "has been given prior permission by a person authorised by the Secretary of State for this purpose".

Passengers arriving in England face fines of up to £10,000 for failing to quarantine, and those who lie on their passenger locator forms face up to 10 years in jail.

All travellers arriving in the UK must have evidence of a negative coronavirus test taken within the 72 hours before their departure.

People returning to England who have not visited a "red list" country must quarantine for 10 days at home and complete two mandatory Covid-19 tests on the second and eighth day after arriving.