Covid: Hotel quarantine begins as first guests check in for 10-day stay

Video report by ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand

The first guests will check into government-designated accommodation on Monday as the hotel quarantine regime begins.

UK nationals or residents returning to England from 33 “red list” countries – comprised of hotspots with Covid-19 variants in circulation – will be required to quarantine in hotels for 10 days.

Anyone who has been in a high-risk destination will have to enter England through a designated port and have pre-booked a quarantine package to stay at one of the government’s managed quarantine facilities.

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

  • UK Editor Paul Brand explains how the hotel quarantine system works

A woman quarantining at the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel by Heathrow Airport after returning from Dubai said said arrivals were “nicely” received.

Zari Tadayon, 66, from north London, who had flown in from Dubai, via Frankfurt told PA: "My room is quite basic. The hotel was nice, we were received quite nicely. They were organised.

We were taken to the ball room, we filled out some forms, they gave us a welcome pack."

She said she was given breakfast, lunch and dinner menu options for the next 10 days as quarantining guests will not be able to order deliveries.

Asked what she thought about the cost of her stay, she said: "I think it’s quite high for what we’re going to be getting."

Ms Tadayon, who will be quarantining over her birthday, said she had tried to return to London before Monday but there were no flights available.

Zari Tadayon speaking to media from her hotel room. Credit: PA

Speaking over the phone from her hotel room, she said she had been in Dubai to attend to some "legal matters".

Asked how she felt about spending 10 days in isolation 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.”

Asked again how she was feeling, she added: "Not very happy because tomorrow is my birthday and I would have wanted to be with my family… those are the rules what can you do?"

Another traveller newly quarantining at the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel near Heathrow Airport said he was "feeling sad" at the prospect of isolating for 10 days.

Speaking to the PA news agency over the phone, Roger Goncalves, 23, from Belo Horizonte in Brazil, said: "I’m feeling sad, it’s not good as I need to stay in the room for 10 days.

"I did my test for coronavirus. The test was negative. Why do I need to stay in my room for 10 days?"

Mr Goncalves, who lives in London and works as a delivery driver, said he had flown into the capital from Sao Paolo, via Madrid in Spain.

He said the £1,750 cost of his stay was “too high” and “crazy for 10 days”.

He added: “The people in the hotel will give food to me for lunch and dinner, everything, but I can’t go out. That’s crazy.”

Mr Goncalves said he thought about not travelling, but added: “I need to come back to work. I need to work.”

A member of staff at the Renaissance hotel by Heathrow Airport said it was one of the new quarantine hotels but said she was unable to give details on the number of bookings or when passengers needing to isolate might arrive.

The hotel’s car park by its entrance was largely empty and the main doors closed on Monday morning.

At the nearby Marriott hotel, a member of staff said it was not a quarantine hotel and was only welcoming key workers.

Coaches were still arriving at the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel throughout Monday morning. A security man has been posted at both the entrance and exit of the hotel’s driveway.

Travellers arriving from Monday onwards that have not visited a red list country must still quarantine for 10 days at home and complete two mandatory Covid-19 tests on the second and eighth day after arriving.

A man arrives on a coach at the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel to quarantine. Credit: PA

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “As this deadly virus evolves, so must our defences. We have already taken tough action to limit the spread, protect people and save lives.

“With the emergence of new variants, we must go further. The rules coming into force today will bolster the quarantine system and provide another layer of security against new variants at the border.”

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”.

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

Inside the Novotel London Heathrow:

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, Mr Hancock announced earlier this week.

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

On Saturday, Heathrow Airport said “significant gaps” remained in the hotel quarantine plan and a spokeswoman said it is yet to receive the “necessary reassurances” from the government.

On Sunday night, the Heathrow spokeswoman said: “We have been working hard with the government to support the successful implementation of the managed quarantine policy from Monday.

“Good progress has been made to address a number of issues. Queues at the border in recent days have been almost five hours and this is totally unacceptable.

“Border Force today have given us assurance that they will have resource and effective processes at the border to avoid compromising the safety of passengers and those working at the airport, which could necessitate the suspension of some arriving flights.”

One of the Heathrow Airport hotels also taking part in the scheme is Novotel London Heathrow T1 T2 T3.

The hotel was charging £65 for members of the public staying on Sunday night, while travellers using it to quarantine from Monday must pay £1,750 for 10 days.

Mr Hancock said the government was looking at other ways to ensure people in the UK can continue to travel if other countries choose to only allow visitors who have been vaccinated against Covid-19, including vaccine certificates.

“There are some countries around the world that are considering bringing in rules saying you can only travel if you have been vaccinated – these aren’t in place yet but there are countries who are actively floating this idea and proposing it," he told Sky News.Quarantined guests at The Renaissance Marriott hotel have their meals prepared for them:

“In that case, it will be important for people from the UK to be able to show whether or not they have been vaccinated in order to travel, so we are working with countries around the world on the basis for this and how that vaccine certification can happen in a way that can be assured.

“We want Brits to be able to travel to those countries and therefore enable Brits to be able to demonstrate their vaccine status, so that sort of vaccine certification is something we are talking to our international counterparts about and there are people who are arguing that is the right way to have safe global travel again because obviously that’s very restricted at the moment.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab dismissed the idea of a “blanket ban” on travel into the UK ahead of the hotel quarantine plan kicking in.

Mr Raab was asked if it is time for a blanket ban due to the South Africa variant of Covid-19 being detected in Austria for example which is not on the government’s red list.

He told Sophy Ridge On Sunday on Sky News: “I’m not sure that’s proportionate, and of course having blanket bans on any, for example, air travel into the UK would be very difficult for the supply chains, things like freight.”

Mr Raab said the data is assessed very carefully and they want to make sure the measures are “as targeted as possible”.

He said: “We think we’ve got the right balance – robust measures, but targeted measures.”