Quarantine hotels: Travellers being used as ‘guinea pigs’, says paramedic couple returning to UK


A paramedic couple returning to the UK with their five-week-old daughter after four years living in Abu Dhabi have said  travellers should not be used as ‘guinea pigs’.

From Monday, UK nationals or residents returning to England from 33 countries will be required to spend 10 days in Government-designated quarantine hotel at a cost of £1,750 for an individual.

The regulations have been published just days before the scheme becomes law. 

But border guards and Heathrow airport have spoken today of how they feel under-prepared for the new rules, with officials saying earlier today that they feel powerless to stop travellers who may ‘leg it’ from airports to avoid quarantining. 

A Heathrow spokesman said on Saturday that the government’s plan has ‘significant gaps’, while border officials said they did not feel adequately prepared, saying they have had little guidance on what to do if people refuse to comply.

Parents living abroad whose unaccompanied minors travelling back to school in the UK have also pleaded with the Government to rethink hotel quarantine rules. 

And families returning to live in the UK have been left exasperated by the lack of clarity around childcare.

Beckie Morris, 30, planned to repatriate to the UK from the United Arab Emirates with husband Matthew and their daughter, but they now face a quarantine bill of thousands of pounds if they do.

Beckie Morris, 30, planned to repatriate to the UK with husband Matthew and their five-week-old daughter, but they now face a quarantine bill of thousands of pounds if they do

The new mother said there was ‘no information’ on the Government website about what to do with young children.

She said: ‘We’d have to arrange all the formula. I don’t know what we do about sterilising bottles, or nappies or washing their clothes – there’s all this unknown. 

‘I tried to reach out, and I know it’s still really early days, but there’s just no information.

Beckie  said there was 'no information' on the Government website about what to do with young children

Beckie  said there was ‘no information’ on the Government website about what to do with young children

‘They haven’t really laid out what actually happens when you get to that hotel and I don’t think that’s going to be known until the first person goes in there.

‘People shouldn’t be used as guinea pigs – especially not paying that amount, that is an extortionate amount of money.’

The couple, who are both paramedics, planned to return to Kent where Mr Morris has been offered a job.

Mrs Morris said the hotel quarantine announcement had left her in ‘tears most nights’.

She said the family would be ‘stranded’ in the United Arab Emirates if they do not return, as both have given up their jobs, but delays in getting their daughter a passport meant they had not been able to come home sooner.

Mr Morris has been vaccinated against Covid-19 and she said the area where they live is ‘safe and secure’.

‘It feels like we are being punished,’ she added.

Due to the expense, the family considered travelling to a non-red list country for 10 days before returning to the UK: ‘That’s what it is forcing people to do.

Parents of children returning to the UK alone face ‘stressful’  quarantine dilemma 

Parents of unaccompanied minors travelling back to school in the UK have pleaded with the Government to rethink hotel quarantine rules, with one father demanding: ‘Don’t lock my children up.’

Hundreds of children whose parents live and work overseas but who attend boarding schools in the UK are keen to return when the Government allows educational establishments to reopen.

But those arriving from countries on the Government’s red list will be required to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days once new rules are introduced on Monday and, with no date set for schools to reopen, parents have been left with a difficult choice.

Karl Feilder, who lives in the United Arab Emirates, has three daughters, two of whom, aged 15 and 17, attend a boarding school near Reading and are hoping to be back in the country once it reopens for on-site learning.

But Mr Feilder, the CEO of a biofuel company, said he would not allow his children to return if it meant quarantining in a hotel alone.

He said: ‘To be perfectly honest, I think anyone in their right mind would not do that with their children and indeed it’s completely mad, completely unnecessary.

‘The fact that they haven’t told us when schools are going back means we can’t take the decision now to put them on a plane today or tomorrow to beat the Monday morning deadline.

‘They’ve got nowhere to stay in the UK – are they going back to an empty school, or a school that’s closed, or is the school going to be open? We don’t know.’

Priya Mitchell, a school counsellor who lives in Abu Dhabi, decided on Friday to book her 16-year-old daughter on to a flight on Sunday so she could be back in the country ahead of the new rules being brought in.

Ms Mitchell’s daughter, who attends a state boarding school in Gloucester, will have to isolate at her 21-year-old brother’s university accommodation, a studio flat.

‘It’s totally ridiculous to put families under this much stress trying to work out what is the best thing for their children,’ Ms Mitchell said.

Ms Mitchell, 49, a social worker in Hillingdon, where Heathrow is situated, said part of her role was dealing with unaccompanied minors arriving at the airport.

She said she was ‘astounded’ the Government had not given sufficient thought to ‘vulnerable children’ like her daughter.

‘What has been published recently by the Government is that if an unaccompanied minor comes back through then a parent in the UK can join that child in a hotel,’ she said.

‘Well that’s just ridiculous, because all of those children who are returning to school are not returning to parents, they’re returning to schools.’

Ms Mitchell said having a security guard on each hotel floor was insufficient.

‘Someone could just turn up to her door and barge in and she could be assaulted,’ she said.

‘Having worked in child protection and knowing statutory guidelines I’m really disappointed that yet again that’s a gap that is not being filled.’

Mr Feilder, 55, said his daughters – one of whom is scheduled to take GCSEs this year and one of whom is in her first year of A-levels – are finding the uncertainty extremely stressful.

‘We try not to talk about it too much because it normally ends in tears,’ he said.

‘As a parent I feel like I’m completely at sea – I can’t give my children decent answers because I don’t understand the policy of the Government.’

Mr Feilder, who said his whole family has been vaccinated, believes the Government should have introduced mandatory Covid tests for travellers last March and added: ‘The UK’s policy on this has been pathetic.’

He suggested children returning to the country should be allowed to quarantine at school, adding: ‘The schools are perfectly well able to look after the kids and make sure they’re staying put.’

Mr Feilder, originally from Newport Pagnell, said that with ‘fantastic’ vaccination programmes in the UK and the UAE it should be possible to have ‘nice and straightforward travel’.

He added: ‘We’re quite happy to do the Covid tests, we’re quite happy to do the home quarantine, whatever – just don’t lock my children up.’

The Department for Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment.

‘But we’ve looked online and there are hardly any countries open anywhere. So realistically we are looking at having to spend this money.

‘(The Government) hasn’t included places like America where the case numbers are ridiculous.

‘Here we have access to four vaccines, we have Covid tests that cost approximately £15 and you can go and get one anywhere. People have to be tested every week here.

‘They are doing national drives again, going around people’s houses by blocks of apartments, knocking on their door, and everyone having tests so they can find all the asymptomatic cases, and they can sort it all out.’

Not everyone returning has been abroad on holiday, she added.

‘They seem to be penalising us, forgetting there is a really big ex-pat community that has really struggled.’

Meanwhile, parents of unaccompanied minors travelling back to school in the UK have pleaded with the Government to rethink the hotel quarantine rules, with one father demanding: ‘Don’t lock my children up.’

Hundreds of children whose parents live and work overseas but who attend boarding schools in the UK are keen to return when the Government allows educational establishments to reopen.

But those arriving from countries on the Government’s red list will be required to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days once new rules are introduced on Monday and, with no date set for schools to reopen, parents have been left with a difficult choice.

Karl Feilder, who lives in the United Arab Emirates, has three daughters, two of whom, aged 15 and 17, attend a boarding school near Reading and are hoping to be back in the country once it reopens for on-site learning.

But Mr Feilder, the CEO of a biofuel company, said he would not allow his children to return if it meant quarantining in a hotel alone.

He said: ‘To be perfectly honest, I think anyone in their right mind would not do that with their children and indeed it’s completely mad, completely unnecessary.

‘The fact that they haven’t told us when schools are going back means we can’t take the decision now to put them on a plane today or tomorrow to beat the Monday morning deadline.

‘They’ve got nowhere to stay in the UK – are they going back to an empty school, or a school that’s closed, or is the school going to be open? We don’t know.’

Priya Mitchell, a school counsellor who lives in Abu Dhabi, decided on Friday to book her 16-year-old daughter on to a flight on Sunday so she could be back in the country ahead of the new rules being brought in.

Ms Mitchell’s daughter, who attends a state boarding school in Gloucester, will have to isolate at her 21-year-old brother’s university accommodation, a studio flat.

‘It’s totally ridiculous to put families under this much stress trying to work out what is the best thing for their children,’ Ms Mitchell said.

Ms Mitchell, 49, a social worker in Hillingdon, where Heathrow is situated, said part of her role was dealing with unaccompanied minors arriving at the airport.

She said she was ‘astounded’ the Government had not given sufficient thought to ‘vulnerable children’ like her daughter.

‘What has been published recently by the Government is that if an unaccompanied minor comes back through then a parent in the UK can join that child in a hotel,’ she said.

‘Well that’s just ridiculous, because all of those children who are returning to school are not returning to parents, they’re returning to schools.’

Ms Mitchell said having a security guard on each hotel floor was insufficient.

‘Someone could just turn up to her door and barge in and she could be assaulted,’ she said.

‘Having worked in child protection and knowing statutory guidelines I’m really disappointed that yet again that’s a gap that is not being filled.’

Mr Feilder, 55, said his daughters – one of whom is scheduled to take GCSEs this year and one of whom is in her first year of A-levels – are finding the uncertainty extremely stressful.

‘We try not to talk about it too much because it normally ends in tears,’ he said.

‘As a parent I feel like I’m completely at sea – I can’t give my children decent answers because I don’t understand the policy of the Government.’

Mr Feilder, who said his whole family has been vaccinated, believes the Government should have introduced mandatory Covid tests for travellers last March and added: ‘The UK’s policy on this has been pathetic.’

He suggested children returning to the country should be allowed to quarantine at school, adding: ‘The schools are perfectly well able to look after the kids and make sure they’re staying put.’

Mr Feilder, originally from Newport Pagnell, said that with ‘fantastic’ vaccination programmes in the UK and the UAE it should be possible to have ‘nice and straightforward travel’.

He added: ‘We’re quite happy to do the Covid tests, we’re quite happy to do the home quarantine, whatever – just don’t lock my children up.’

The Department for Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment.

Border officials have have warned that they are powerless to stop people dodging quarantine, and have criticised the government's 'shambolic' policy. Pictured: People queue to enter the UK at Heathrow airport

Border officials have have warned that they are powerless to stop people dodging quarantine, and have criticised the government’s ‘shambolic’ policy. Pictured: People queue to enter the UK at Heathrow airport

Meanwhile, Britain’s hotel quarantine plan that comes into force on Monday has ‘significant gaps’, Heathrow Airport said on Saturday. 

Government ministers needed to ensure appropriate measures were in place to avoid putting the safety of airport staff and passengers at risk, a spokesman said.

The government said it is working closely with airports and hotels to manage and issues that may arise.

A Heathrow spokesman said: ‘We have been working hard with the government to try to ensure the successful implementation of the policy from Monday, but some significant gaps remain.

‘Ministers must ensure there is adequate resource and appropriate protocols in place for each step of the full end-to-end process from aircraft to hotel to avoid compromising the safety of passengers and those working at the airport.’

Border officials have warned that they are powerless to stop people dodging quarantine, and have criticised the government’s ‘shambolic’ border policy.

Britain risks becoming a ‘super-spreader’ because of how relaxed the rules are, they said, adding that they are unable to stop people from ‘legging it’ from airport terminals to avoid having to quarantine upon their arrival.

Border staff told The Times that they have been given limited power to detain people at the border, and have been given no guidance on where to direct individuals after they have entered the country, risking people spreading virus variants further.

Scientists have also said the rules for those quarantined in hotels are also too lax. 

On Friday night – barely 48 hours before new rules come into effect on Monday – the government finally published the new quarantine rules for people arriving from 33 ‘red list’ countries.

Lucy Moreton, a professional officer at the Immigration Services Union, told The Times that the quarantine policy was ‘chaotic, shambolic and risks turning into a superspreader.’

‘We’ve got no information on what we do if someone doesn’t fill out their passenger location forms,’ she said, or what to do ‘if they turn up at an airport which is not a designated airport.’

She added that once border staff are satisfied an individual qualifies for entry into the country, ‘the only provision we’ve got is the Coronavirus Act, which requires that you obey a reasonable instruction from a border officer.

‘But what happens if they leg it?’ she asked. ‘Are we supposed to chase?’

Pictured: People wait and check the screens at Heathrow Airport, London

Pictured: People wait and check the screens at Heathrow Airport, London

On Friday, a government source told the newspaper that Border Force will have the power to detain and search individuals that are suspected of lying on their forms for up to three hours.

The regulation allows police to break into homes of people they suspect of breaking the hotel quarantine rooms. 

UK nationals or residents returning to England from 33 countries will be forced to spend 10 days in Government-designated accommodation from Monday.

The law sets out new requirements for people to book their ‘managed self-isolation package’ which includes a hotel, transport and testing.

People must quarantine in the 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.

They will also be allowed outside to get fresh air or have a cigarette break – and will only need to get hotel staff permission.  

Although the government hasn’t revealed which hotels will house the quarantine passengers, Novotel on Bath Road near Heathrow is thought to be one of them

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’.

People may only arrive into Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport, London City Airport, Birmingham Airport, Farnborough Airport or any military airfield or port, the legislation states.

Travellers are required to have booked a ‘testing package’, which includes provision for a test on days two and eight of their quarantine.

The accompanying explanatory memorandum to the legislation says travellers ‘can only leave managed quarantine or self-isolation once they have received a negative result from their day eight test and quarantined until the end of the 10-day period’.

Passengers arriving into 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, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced earlier this week.

The cost for a quarantine hotel stay is £1,750 for a single adult.

The Thistle Hotel, by Heathrow Terminal, is another thought to have been approached by the government

The Thistle Hotel, by Heathrow Terminal, is another thought to have been approached by the government

The regulations say the secretary of state or a person designated by him ‘may impose a charge in relation to the accommodation, transport and testing package’ and that the secretary of state ‘may recover any sum owed by P (the traveller) pursuant to such a charge as a debt’.

Guidance published by the Government on Thursday said people on income-related benefits can apply for a deferred repayment plan when making their quarantine package booking and repay the cost in 12 monthly instalments. 

But the country risks running out of hotel rooms by Thursday, with just 4,600 rooms available to the quarantine scheme – despite a government esimation that 1,400 people a day could arrive in Britain from high-risk countries.

But on Friday, a Number 10 spokesperson insisted that to service can be expanded ‘as needed, adding hotels and rooms as required.’ 

A three-star Ibis will be among the hotels welcoming Heathrow arrivals as part of the government’s travel quarantine programme, the MailOnline revealed on Thursday.

A three-star Ibis will be among the hotels welcoming Heathrow arrivals as part of the government's travel quarantine programme, MailOnline can reveal. Pictured is one of the twin bedrooms

A three-star Ibis will be among the hotels welcoming Heathrow arrivals as part of the government’s travel quarantine programme, MailOnline can reveal. Pictured is one of the twin bedrooms 

The three-star Ibis Styles London Heathrow East hotel opened in December 2019 and features brightly-coloured 1920s ‘Art Deco-inspired’ interiors behind a geometric red brick

The three-star Ibis Styles London Heathrow East hotel opened in December 2019 and features brightly-coloured 1920s ‘Art Deco-inspired’ interiors behind a geometric red brick

On Thursday, 12 medical bins were seen being assembled outside the hotel to taste waste produced by guests during quarantine

On Thursday, 12 medical bins were seen being assembled outside the hotel to taste waste produced by guests during quarantine

Guests at the 125-room hotel will have to change their own sheets and towels and be accompanied by security if they want fresh air or a cigarette outside.

Arrivals will have to pay £1,750 per person – a rate set by the government.

The hotel usually charges around £60 for a standard room including breakfast, which would normally work out at £660 for 11 nights – the length of the quarantine stay.

The Ibis, which has 125 rooms and is a 12-minute drive from Terminals 2 and 3 – is expected to be closed to ordinary guests over the length of the scheme.

While a spokesperson for Ibis told MailOnline the hotel is ‘not planned for quarantine use’, medical waste wheelie bins were seen outside the hotel on Thursday.

Human rights barrister Adam Wagner, who studies coronavirus rules and tries to simplify them for the public, had led an outpouring of anger against the government over the timing of the legislation’s publication so close to the rules becoming law. 

He tweeted: ‘Inexcusable that these have been published *zero* working days before they come into force and will not be scrutinised by Parliament at all before they do.’

Writer and filmmaker Laura Dodsworth added: ‘The new detention, I mean ‘hotel quarantine’, regulations have just been published, ZERO working days before they come into force. 

‘MPs should be UP IN ARMS. No Parliamentary debate or vote. 

‘People will be put in detention for being *potentially infectious* & have to pay for it!’ 

The legislation, called the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) (Amendment) (No. 7) Regulations 2021, comes into force at 4am on Monday.      

How UK hotel quarantine compares to Australia

WHO HAS TO QUARANTINE IN A HOTEL?

All arrivals in Australia, except for some from New Zealand. 

In England, only those who have recently been in a ‘banned list’ country such as South Africa and the UAE. But Scotland is sending all arrivals from outside the UK and Ireland into hotels.

LENGTH OF QUARANTINE  

14 days in Australia, 10 in Britain. 

VIRUS TESTING

In Victoria, people are tested on day 3 and day 11. In New South Wales, it is day 2 and day 12. 

In Britain, people must get a test ‘on or before day 2’ and ‘on or after day 8’. 

Neither country allows people to leave early if they test negative.  

CAN PEOPLE LEAVE THEIR ROOMS?

In Australia, not unless they have an emergency or a medical reason. 

The UK government says hotel staff can give people permission to exercise but that ‘this is not guaranteed’. 

MEAL DELIVERY  

Australia has introduced staggered meal times to reduce the chance of guests inadvertently coming into contact when they open their doors. 

Britain merely says that room service will follow ‘best practice’, according to a document seen by BBC News. 

PROTECTION FOR HOTEL STAFF

Hotel staff in Victoria have to wear medical-grade N95 masks, which are also being considered for guests. 

The UK policy only calls for standard surgical masks.     

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk