UK hotel quarantine: can you get an exemption in an emergency?

Travellers have been able to obtain day passes to leave hotel quarantine and visit very sick relatives, providing they have proof

British and Irish citizens and anyone with UK residence rights who spent time in a country on the UK’s “red list” in the previous 10 days must enter quarantine in a hotel if they travel to Britain.

There are almost 40 countries on the list, including the UAE, Oman and Qatar.

Anyone else who spent time in countries on the list in the previous 10 days is currently barred from entering the UK.

The policy is strictly enforced, but it is possible to secure permission to get a short-term pass to leave quarantine to attend to emergencies.

The National explains how.

When and why did the policy come into force?

The policy was introduced in the UK on February 15 in response to fears of the spread of new variants of the coronavirus, which could evade immunity from previous infections or vaccines.

Passengers must provide proof they are coronavirus free before they board their flight.

They must also book and pay for a quarantine hotel and package where they will be staying, and complete a passenger locator form before they fly.

Anyone who has not arranged a quarantine package before their arrival in England faces a penalty of up to £4,000 ($5,532). They will still have to pay for their quarantine package on arrival over and above the fine.

Hotel quarantine guests must stay in their rooms for 10 nights. The day of arrival in England is classed as day zero.

In England, a 10-day stay costs £1,750 per passenger, with each additional adult or child incurring an additional charge of £650, or £325 for children aged five to 12.

The charges rise by an extra £1,200 if they test positive for coronavirus and need to extend their stay.

The cost of the package covers transport, food, accommodation, security and testing during their stay.

Anyone who faces significant financial hardship as a result of the charge can apply for a deferred repayment plan when booking.

Ireland recently introduced its version of the policy.

Arrivals must enter quarantine for up to 14 days in a hotel room in Ireland but can leave after 10 if they test negative for the coronavirus.

What happens if you enter from a third country to evade detection?

You are likely to be fined, and possibly jailed for up to 10 years for lying about your recent travel to evade hotel quarantine.

In March, a man and woman were fined £10,000 ($13,924) for failing to enter a hotel quarantine after returning from Dubai to Merseyside in north-west England. The pair were later transferred to a quarantine hotel.

What impact has the policy had on Brits living here?

For many it is merely inconvenient, but those who have ill family members in the UK or are experiencing other emergencies, the policy has caused great anguish.

Abu Dhabi resident Imran Ellam, whose mother Sarah has Alzheimer’s disease, has lobbied his family’s MP to change the policy but to no effect.

He is waiting for the next destination review to see whether the UAE will be removed.

“A few of us emailed our local MPs as well but we all got the bog standard replies saying it’s because of variants and we have to protect the UK and there are no exemptions,” the Briton told The National.

“One person said they got the day trip. But it was literally a day trip.”

Are exemptions granted?

The UK said travellers could request permission to leave the hotel for a limited time if a close family member, or member of the person’s household, was dying. Temporary leave may also be granted to allow a person to attend a funeral.

The UK said that leave was limited to the day of the funeral but a person may be allowed to stay elsewhere overnight “if you cannot stay in a nearby managed quarantine facility”.

A member of the British Mums Dubai Facebook group said she obtained a pass on two days to visit her terminally ill mother after contacting the UK government.

“You need to have proof. I had supporting letters from my mother’s hospital to say she is terminally ill,” she said.

She said she emailed at 11pm and received permission for a visit out by 4pm the next day.

“My advice, email first, if no response book the first ticket and quarantine hotel. Make sure you follow all the guidance,” she wrote.

“Book PCR tests, quarantine hotel, passenger locator form and 2 x PCR tests for day two and day eight – this is included in the hotel quarantine package.Don’t waste time to get home.”

How can someone obtain a day pass?

By contacting the Department of Health and Social Care at MQSOperations@dhsc.gov.uk and providing proof stating the nature of the emergency, such as letters from a hospital to say a relative is seriously unwell.

If everything is in order and the short-term exemption is deemed appropriate, they may receive permission for short visits outside during the day.

They must, however, return to the hotel at night.

Police are called if the person fails to do so.

Updated: April 4, 2021 09:47 PM

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