UK hotel quarantine guests allowed outside to smoke despite risk of Covid outbreak

Travellers say they are unhappy with Britain’s ‘utterly incompetent’ approach

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A property developer who flew back to the UK from Dubai said guests in hotel quarantine were allowed to leave their rooms for a cigarette.

Wayne Kelly was transferred to the Holiday Inn near London Heathrow Airport after arriving on the first day of Britain’s hotel quarantine scheme on Monday.

He said guests at his hotel were allowed “regular cigarette breaks” while being escorted by security guards.

Australian epidemiologist Prof Michael Toole warned the UK government that it was taking a chance allowing travellers to leave their rooms.
Prof Toole, from the Burnet Institute in Melbourne, said that coronavirus outbreaks in the city were caused by guests opening their door for food and the "fog of virus went out into the corridor, travelled down and infected hotel staff".

Mr Kelly told The Telegraph newspaper about the situation at his quarantine hotel.

"When you get to the ground floor, there are guys in yellow flak jackets sitting and standing around. They are nice guys but some of them haven't got their face masks on properly. It is ironic, really, because I suppose the whole point of me being inside here is to protect everyone else," he said.

Aviation experts said many travellers arriving in Britain may also be lying about their original country of departure despite the risk of hefty fines.

Meanwhile, travellers who stop over in Dubai on the way to England complained about the transfer to hotel quarantine despite having spent only a few hours in the UAE.

Mohamed Noor, a man who is quarantining, gestures to the security guards while he takes his daily exercises outside the Holiday Inn Hotel near Heathrow Airport, as Britain introduces hotel quarantine programme for arrivals from a "red list" of 30 countries, in London, Britain, February 16, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Mohamed Noor takes his daily exercise outside the Holiday Inn Hotel near Heathrow Airport, London. Reuters 

All UK citizens and permanent residents entering England from 33 red-list countries – which include the UAE, southern Africa and all of South America – are required to book a hotel room for 10 days at a cost of £1,750 ($2,427) for one adult.

Mohammed Mostafa was flying back to London after visiting family in Bangladesh when he changed planes in Dubai.

Mr Mostafa, 42, said he felt “quite intimidated” by UK authorities after arriving in Britain.

“It’s such a big mess,” he said. “I came from a country that’s not on the red list, so why should I be in this situation? I don’t get that.”

He described his hotel room as cold, claustrophobic and “simply like a prison”.

“I do completely agree with the idea as a theory but the way it has been implemented is utterly incompetent,” he said. “They said you’re not allowed to go out, you’re not allowed to do anything.”

A woman arrives in a coach at the Radisson Blu hotel, where travellers are spending their mandatory hotel quarantine, at Heathrow Airport in west London on February 16, 2021. The mandatory hotel quarantine policy, which began on February 15, 2021, requires all UK citizens and permanent residents returning from 33 countries on its so-called travel ban list to self-isolate in a government approved facility for 10 days. 

 / AFP / Adrian DENNIS
A woman arrives in a coach at the Radisson Blu hotel, where travellers are spending their mandatory hotel quarantine. AFP

He said he was permitted to take some walks, however, because of his diabetes and high blood pressure.

Mr Mostafa said it would have been cheaper for him to return to Bangladesh and rebook, but he was not offered that option.

On Monday, police fined four people arriving in England £10,000 ($13,868) each for failing to declare they had been to a red-list country in the past 10 days. They arrived at Birmingham and were not allowed to leave the airport.