Dubai resident stuck in UK hotel quarantine tells of heartbreak after mother dies

Mary Garvey must organise her mother’s funeral over Zoom as she completes her 10-day isolation period

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A Dubai resident stuck in UK hotel quarantine has criticised the government-enforced system after she was denied permission to go and see her dead mother's body.

Mary Garvey, 35, flew from Dubai to Birmingham on March 31 after being told that her mother’s health had deteriorated.

After landing in the UK on the morning of April 1, she was met with the news that her mother, who had been suffering with a brain tumour, died earlier that day.

Six days into her quarantine at the Holiday Inn Express in the Midlands, Ms Garvey, a teacher in Dubai, said she has received no bereavement support and will likely have to complete her full, 10-day isolation.

My mum had died just two hours before. I am appalled at the complete lack of support

An official response from the UK government said Ms Garvey was eligible for an 18-hour release on the day of the funeral – but not to see her mother's body before then, or to organise the ceremony.

"I think I will be here until Sunday and I have no choice but to just deal with the complete lack of compassion," she told The National on Tuesday from her hotel room.

“When I arrived in the UK on Thursday morning I discovered that my mum had died.

“I just broke down in tears at the border control and explained the situation.

“They agreed I needed an exemption, so told me to sit and wait. Ten minutes later they returned and told me there was nothing they could do and I had to travel to the hotel to quarantine.”

The UK enforced mandatory hotel quarantine for passengers arriving into the country from "red list" destinations – including the UAE – on February 15.

The policy was introduced in response to fears of the spread of new coronavirus variants.

Woman shows food in UK quarantine

Woman shows food in UK quarantine

Although strictly enforced, it is possible to secure permission for a short-term pass to leave quarantine to attend to emergencies, visit very sick relatives or attend a funeral.

In Ms Garvey's case, none of these conditions applied.

“I had a letter from my mother’s GP saying she was critically ill, but that became null and void when I landed as she had already passed away,” she said.

“When I got to the hotel check-in desk, I explained the situation again. They could see I was in a terrible state, but they said there was nothing they could do and shipped me off to my room.

“My mum had died just two hours before. On reflection, I am appalled at the complete lack of mental health support.”

Over the past few days, Ms Garvey’s local MP, Rachael Maskell, has been trying to secure her an early release on compassionate grounds.

But as per the policy, a government representative responded saying she was only eligible for an 18-hour day release for a funeral.

“Rachael has been liaising with the secretary of state for the health office, but their suggestion was baffling,” she said.

“The only compromise they came up with was that my 67-year-old father, who has just lost his wife, travel up to Birmingham and quarantine in the hotel with me, at full cost.

“The responses on email have been so cold, like a tick-list approach.

“I think they need to look at each individual case as human beings.

"The way the pandemic was initially handled by the government was ridiculous and it is policies like this where they are taking it out on their citizens.”

Ms Garvey, who has lived in Dubai for four years, said the whole ordeal was harrowing and has made her think twice about settling down in the UK in the future.

She is due to finish her quarantine on April 11 and has had to help organise her mother's funeral over Zoom, which has been set for April 12.

UK hotel quarantine programme – in pictures