Red list travellers face ‘up to two weeks’ in hotel quarantine due to delays in returning test results

‘Government isn’t backing up its policy with enough resources,’ says one guest

Tom Batchelor
Tuesday 06 July 2021 15:22
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<p>A bus used to transport red list arriving airline passengers passes the Terminal 3 building at Heathrow Airport </p>

A bus used to transport red list arriving airline passengers passes the Terminal 3 building at Heathrow Airport

Travellers returning to the UK from red list countries are being forced to isolate in government-approved quarantine hotels for up to two weeks due to delays in Covid tests being returned, guests have told The Independent.

Current rules stipulate that people arriving back from 56 high-risk countries must spend 10 days in a hotel at a cost of £1,750, and must undergo Covid tests on day 2 and day 8.

If the test results are negative, guests may leave on day 10, while leaving quarantine early could result in a £10,000 fine.

But The Independent has been told that some guests have been forced to extend their hotel stay by several days due to delays in test results being returned.

John Conway, a headteacher at a school in the United Arab Emirates – which is on the British government’s travel red list – said he was forced to stay an additional night at government-sanctioned accommodation near Heathrow after his test result did not materialise in time.

He claimed 67 of his fellow guests at the Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel had been told they must also stay on past day 10 and that security guards had warned him some had to wait until day 13 or 14 before they could leave.

Mr Conway, 59 and from Epsom in Surrey, who is fully vaccinated, said he had twice spoken to NHS staff who informed him his test was in a queue and would be processed as quickly as possible.

“There is a big failing in the system,” he said. “If you are going to promise as a government that people will be out on day 10, you have to deliver it.

“It seems to me there is a lack of capacity to process the amount of tests that are coming through.”

He added: “Some people had trains or ferries booked which they will have been anxious about.

“This is causing a good deal of stress. It’s another bit of evidence that the government isn’t backing up its policy with enough resources.”

After travelling back from Dubai on 25 June, he was released on Tuesday morning.

Several other guests at different sites in the UK complained they were facing similar delays, with one writing on a hotel quarantine Facebook group: “I’m on day 12 ... waiting for my pcr result to arrive. Just received a call from NHS case management saying that they are unable to trace my kit, in other words, lost my kit.”

A travel industry source told The Independent they were not surprised to hear that guests were being forced to stay longer than the 10 day period.

The hotel quarantine policy has proved controversial since its inception in February.

Reports about “disgusting” food and small portion sizes have been rife, while families have complained about “cramped and unsanitary” conditions.

Individuals isolating in the hotels said they were “not being treated like humans” and a number of them have taken legal action, one of which has already resulted in a High Court judge ordering that the conditions be rectified immediately.

One family was forced to go to the High Court twice in four days after the Holiday Inn they were staying in near Heathrow ignored a judge’s request to “take all necessary steps” to improve conditions.

The Independent has contacted the Department for Health and Social Care and the Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel for comment.

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