UAE oil workers deflated by UK's hotel quarantine rules plead for exemption

Changes to rules leave many workers in UAE worrying they may not be able to return to Britain

Carl Langley, a mechanical supervisor from South Shields. Courtesy Carl Langley
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Oil workers in the UAE are calling for an exemption to UK hotel quarantine rules because of staggered shift patterns that make it impractical to return home.

A number of British expats employed on offshore rigs work shift patterns of 28 days on, 28 days off, meaning it is not worth the trip to return home with the time spent in quarantine.

The UK requires travellers from the UAE to quarantine for at least 10 days in a hotel, paying £1,750 ($2,439) each time.

But oil workers are also required to self-isolate for 10 days on coming back to the Emirates before they are allowed to travel out to the rig.

Carl Langley, a mechanical supervisor from South Shields, told The National he felt deflated because UK quarantine rules were effectively making it impossible to return home.

By the time Mr Langley finished hotel quarantine, he would have to turn around again and make the two-week journey back to the UAE.

He wants the UK to return to its system of home quarantine and spoke of his experiences with the previous scheme when he visited in September and December.

The first time he returned home he was required only to have a PCR Covid test, which came back negative, and to use the government's test-and-trace system.

When he went home in December the rules changed. Because there was an air corridor in place between the UK and UAE, he did not need a PCR test.

Mr Langley still had to complete the passenger locator but no one from the service contacted him.

“I could have been anywhere but I wasn't, I stayed home,” he said.

Every time he returned to the UAE, he had to take a PCR test.

"All the press were complaining about these 'influencers' and Z-list stars sunning it up in Dubai, when in fact they were doing nothing wrong because there was a travel corridor in place," Mr Langley said.

"Then all of a sudden the UAE was put on the red list.”

Mr Langley said at work he spends four weeks at a time in a controlled environment, and before starting work he has to be in quarantine for two weeks and take a PCR test.

He is now worried about not being able to get home at all during his next period of leave.

“My partner has spent most of last year home alone, all by herself,” Mr Langley said. “I haven’t seen my brothers, nieces and nephews for a year. The situation is having a big mental impact on me.

“For me and others in similar situations, they could at least let us do quarantine at home.

“I’m willing to take test after test to prove negative in the short time that I’m home. It’s only 10 days.

“People say, ‘you could be stuck in worse parts of the world’, but I want to be home with my family,” he told PA.

Another oil worker, Gary Douglass, said his industry had been "completely forgotten about” in the UK’s hotel quarantine rules.

“Why, 12 months down the line, are they putting in all these restrictions?” he said.

From Monday, international travellers from the UK will also have to carry a form with them to prove that they are allowed to travel.