Waiting game: Nadia and David Swan are unable to leave their hotel at Heathrow
Waiting game: Nadia and David Swan are unable to leave their hotel at Heathrow

Couple set to miss family funeral after error of only hours in calculating ‘red list’ timing

Exclusive: Nadia and David Swan left the UAE two weeks ago and have since had five negative Covid tests – but face another week in hotel quarantine at Heathrow

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
@SimonCalder
Wednesday 26 May 2021 06:38
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A couple who live in the UAE are spending 11 nights in hotel quarantine at Heathrow airport, apparently unable to attend the family funeral that was the purpose of their visit to the UK.

Nadia and David Swan landed at London Heathrow on Friday 21 May from Bahrain. They had spent 10 days in the Gulf kingdom to expunge their “red list” status.

The UAE is in the UK government’s highest risk category because of the number of flights that connect at Dubai and Abu Dhabi airport.

Mr Swan’s father died on 9 May. The funeral was planned for 28 May, allowing them time to travel to the UK.

The couple believed that the 10 days in Bahrain would allow them to assert that they had not been in a red list country.

As Bahrain is on the “amber list” they anticipated going into self-isolation at their home in Sandhurst, Berkshire, using the option to “test to release” on day five to attend the funeral.

But a minor error in their calculations meant that they were told when they landed at Heathrow that they were regarded as arriving from a red list location.

According to the UK Border Force rules, they were obliged to go into hotel quarantine – and spend £2,400 on an 11-night stay.

They also face a fine of £500 each for failing to pre-book a hotel.

The law says anyone who has been in a red list country “in the period beginning with the 10th day before the date of their arrival in England” must go into hotel quarantine.

That date was 11 May – when they flew from Dubai to Bahrain.

The following day Mr Swan wrote to the NHS Test and Trace team with full details of the planned itinerary, but he did not receive a reply. Hoping for the best, they boarded the Gulf Air overnight flight to Heathrow.

Ms Swan said: “We flew on 21 May, from Bahrain to Heathrow, arriving at 7am fully believing we had done so in compliance with the rules.

“We had pre-booked and paid for day two and day eight tests along with test-to-release on day five, expecting to isolate at home, alone.”

When UK Border Force staff learnt they had been in the UAE on the morning of 11 May they were ordered to book a quarantine package, and were taken to their hotel – the Crowne Plaza at Heathrow Terminal 4 .

Ms Swan told The Independent from their room: “With all the changes that have been happening, it is incredibly difficult to keep up with everything, perhaps more so given this very stressful time.

“There was no bad intention and in fact we believed we had done everything correctly.”

They again emailed the Test and Trace service asking for 24 hours to attend the funeral.

They have been told the request is being assessed.

“We had hoped that someone in border police would be able to look at the situation and understand pragmatically that we were not a risk and it was just the difference of a few hours involved,” Ms Swan said.

Both have been fully vaccinated, though that has no bearing on the UK rules for arrivals.

It is now two weeks since the couple were last in the UAE. In that time they have taken five Covid tests. All have proved negative.

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