As Omicron, a new strain of COVID-19, spreads across the world, countries are beginning to re-impose stricter travel restrictions again. This means the return of quarantine hotels.
In the past, they have been criticized for improper living conditions – and UK hotels were particularly notorious.
In September this year, a A law firm has taken legal action against Britain’s quarantine hotels, accusing them of “a fundamental violation of people’s human rights”.
There have been reports of sexual harassment, substandard food, filthy surroundings, and adverse mental health effects from people’s stay.
Last week, England Added 10 countries in southern Africa to his red list and will require all entrants to do Day 2 PCR testing and self-isolation until they get a negative result.
Arrivals from Red List countries now have to go directly to government-mandated hotel quarantine. These cost about 3000 euros, per person, for 10 days.
Currently, the UK Red List includes 10 countries:
- South Africa
There have been reports of space being unavailable even in hotels, resulting in travelers having to delay their return to the UK. But a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care told Euronews Travel, “We are rapidly increasing capacity in light of 10 countries being added to the Red List and expect to have more rooms online this week.”
We spoke to travelers who stayed in quarantine hotels in the UK to see if they were as bad as they sounded.
In August of this year, a Mediterranean woman (identity protected) traveled to the UK with her partner from one of the Red List countries. They ended up in a quarantined Park Plaza Victoria hotel in London, describing the experience as “hell”.
in a daily newspaper ArticlesThey planned their stay, comparing it to a prison-like experience. The couple explain how meager meals were, there was no bread with breakfast and every meal came with copious amounts of unnecessary plastic cutlery. On top of all that, the phone lines didn’t work which meant they couldn’t get to the reception with urgent requests and had to fight to make sure they got their 20 minute walk allotted. She explains that it was like living “in a cage.”
“I’m starting to feel like I’m drowning.”
They say they were able to order food from outside the hotel if they wished – the receptionist would deliver it to the room so they had no contact with the outside world.
But when you’re already paying thousands for full board, you don’t want to spend more on junk food.
For this entire experience, they paid £3,715 (€4,369).
They concluded: “I hope no one will ever need to stay in a quarantine-managed hotel and this practice will soon be over.”
Rebecca Meranza Holding also revealed her experience publicly, this time via Twitter. Having traveled from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I was forced to pay £2,285 (€2,687) to stay in a UK quarantine hotel in September.
While she was there, she said she caught a cold and needed some ibuprofen and limsip – but pharmacies only arrive at hotels on Tuesdays and Thursdays. To make matters worse, an Uber to transport the medicine will cost £27 (€32) alone.
Rebecca wrote in one of her tweets that there were “no actual cases” of COVID-19 in the DRC, so she was at a loss as to why the regulations were so stringent.
It says France, for example, has thousands of other cases, and is still free to travel to and from.
“I really enjoyed it”
For Andrew Schifflin, a British fitness coach, hotel quarantine in the UK has not been as bad as the others.
Andrew was traveling from Bali, Indonesia, to Heathrow Airport and staying at the Radisson Blu Hotel at Heathrow Airport.
“In terms of the experience, I know this is probably not a popular opinion but I really enjoyed the quarantine,” he says.
“Obviously I didn’t enjoy being locked in a room but my mind personally was there either way, so I either made it fun or grumbled about it for two weeks.
“I actually failed my PCR test on the third day, so my stay was extended, so I did 14 days.”
He clarifies that he did not have COVID at the time, but contracted it six weeks ago – and it is still possible to show positive results in tests in the following weeks.
“I work as a professional online so I’ve made a lot of Instagram content to show this. I recreated the Olympics and drew a plastic face on a ball—and called it Wilson. I had a life on Instagram, exercised every day, and hit 10,000 steps (this was really hard with three meters to walk up and down) and read a load of books.”
Regarding the food, Andrew says it was “good” but the fact that you were able to order food was a godsend. “Even though I did get one meal at the hotel it was literally the wrong result for my dog,” he recalls.
“The hotel staff were as helpful as they could possibly have been. That’s what you do in my opinion, it gives me that I was on my own and lucky enough to be in a position where I can still work.”
“One of the most horrific experiences I’ve ever had”
A British national who lives in Dubai (an identity reserve) has opened up to Euronews Travel about a particularly traumatic experience she was staying at at the Holiday Inn, London Heathrow, in February 2021.
When one of her close relatives contracted COVID-19 and died, she traveled to the UK to join the rest of her family for the funeral. With Dubai on the red list at the time, she knew she would have to be quarantined in a hotel, but expected that there would be some sort of sympathetic circumstance with her situation.
“It’s not like I was traveling for leisure or on vacation, I was there for a funeral,” she explains.
The first hurdle came when she was told that there were no quarantine hotels in Manchester, near the funeral home, and that she would have to stay in London – a three-hour drive away.
After four hours of queuing at Heathrow, another two hours to get the bus to the hotel and another hour to sign forms before she could get to her room, she was tired and hungry — having not eaten for nearly 12 hours and had not served any food during that time.
When I got to her room, the windows hadn’t opened (“I was starving from the sun”) and the heaters hadn’t been working for days so it was freezing. But the worst thing was – her second day PCR test came back negative, so it felt like she was being punished for nothing.
“It was like a horror movie,” she recalls. “I was panicking and trying to do meditation while walking. It was one of the most horrific experiences I have ever had.”
Over the next few days, she described the experience as a “nightmare.” Her throat started to itch and she started to bleed from the nose – which was attributed to the lack of filtering in the air conditioning unit that was pumping dust into the room. As an interior designer, this is something you know creates dry, unlivable conditions.
The losses to her physical and mental health became worse and worse, while grieving for a relative lost and barely able to get fresh air each day.
“You can walk 15 minutes a day, if you’re lucky,” she says. This meant calling and calling until you got to someone at the front desk and then you wait for the guard to come and escort you to a prison-like car park to go back and forth with nowhere to sit.
After 10 days of crying and no human contact, she was exhausted. She adds that the experience kept haunting her for weeks after that. “I didn’t talk for long after that.”
Her question remains, why and how did she not receive exceptional circumstances for reasons of pity? Apparently the others staying at the hotel had returned from a holiday in Dubai but she felt she was not in the same boat and should have been better taken care of and provided for.
“I was suffering from this tragedy,” she says. “And no one even asked me, What is the reason for your travel?”
Fortunately, she was met by her husband who flew from Manchester after a 10-day wait. But it is an ordeal that she will struggle to forget and only encourage others to travel from Red List countries if at all it is necessary.
What are the exceptional circumstances of quarantine in the UK?
The UK government states that if you think you will be in severe financial hardship as a result of paying the full cost of your quarantine, arrangements may be available to you – if your travel is for essential reasons.
Essential travel includes work, education, urgent medical treatment or humanitarian reasons.
If you are found to qualify for the hardship arrangement, you may be offered a payment plan (where you pay the cost of managed quarantine in monthly instalments) for some or all of your fees. In very limited circumstances, you may get a fee reduction or a fee waiver.
But before you are offered anything like that, you’ll need to exhaust all other options, from loans and credit cards to overdrafts.
When considering applications, they take into account factors such as your income, savings, access to credit and/or loans, whether your family or friends can lend you money, whether you have children or basic living costs, such as rent.
If you are Application If you are refused, you can appeal under exceptional circumstances, if your savings are earmarked for basic childcare costs or for the care of an elderly relative, for example.