Film star Richard E Grant has drawn thousands of comments on Twitter after criticising the “very poor standard” of food at a four-star quarantine hotel near London’s Gatwick Airport.
Documenting his experience at the Holiday Inn, the Withnail and I actor posted photos showing less-than-appetising meals delivered to his room, where he was holed up for 10 days at a cost of more than £2,000.
He said given the low quality of the cuisine, the three meals a day appear to be worth no more than £20, yet travellers are being charged hundreds of pounds per night.
And given that a stay at a non-quarantine Holiday Inn hotel nearby “costs £89 including breakfast” Grant, 64, questioned how the government can “justify this cost to a traveller for ‘hospitality’” adding: “You do the maths as am confounded!”
The eSwatini-born British actor had been visiting his elderly mother in southern Africa when the UK government placed several countries in that region on the red list and reintroduced mandatory hotel quarantine for travellers coming to the UK from those nations.
In a video posted on social media, Grant, said: “I went to southern Africa to visit my 90-year-old mother and got caught by the red region Covid restrictions. It took over a week, many cancelled flights to finally get home, which I’m incredibly grateful [for].
“I understand that there are security costs in the hotel and that you’ve got to pay for two Covid test but £228 a day and to receive three meals a day of this very poor standard in a supposed four star Holiday Inn hotel beggars belief.”
Amid growing fears over the Omicron variant, minister have slammed the brakes on quarantine-free travel from Angola, Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The rules mean anyone arriving in Britain from those nations must isolate in a government-sanctioned hotel at a cost of more than £2,000.
Thousands of Twitter users reacted to Grant’s posts, with many agreeing with his grim assessment of quarantine hotels.
One woman named Sonja Hooper said she was quarantining at a four star hotel near London’s Heathrow Airport and was “equally shocked at the food and treatment”. She claimed the policy of dishing out food with disposable containers and cutlery was “inhumane”.
Another critic of the government’s quarantine policy tweeted a response to Grant calling the hotel stay an “absolute rip-off”.
“Let people self-isolate at home. Appalling. If you have to use a hotel it should be at the standard rate,” added the man named Tayf.
The Holiday Inn has been contacted for comment.
The backlash against the policy comes as the government faces a legal challenge from law firm PGMBM, which is arguing the policy constitutes a “fundamental breach of human rights”.
The company will on Thursday ask the High Court for a judicial review of the policy, saying double vaccinated people who have tested negative for Covid-19 should not be forced to fork out an average of £2,285 each for 10 days in a hotel after arriving in Britain.
The case is backed by travellers caught up in the sudden rules change, some of whom had their flights cancelled while abroad.
Owen Hancock, 35, and his girlfriend Emily Mennie, 30, had been visiting her family in South Africa for the first time since the start of the pandemic when their travel plans were thrown into chaos.
The pair, both from Tooting, south London, were forced to reschedule their return flights and PCR tests because of a lack of space in quarantine hotels.
Angered by the unexpected problems, they set up an online petition calling on the government to pay for hotel stays for travellers who had booked flights before the rules were introduced. More than 40,000 people signed the petition and the couple have thrown their weight behind the legal bid to force ministers to scrap the policy.
“This ridiculous and unjustifiable policy was reintroduced with no prior warning, no ability for us to get home, and then to add insult to injury we were unable to get a room,” said Ms Mennie.
“The government’s handling of this has been shambolic and that’s evident from the number of people who have signed our petition and call on the Prime Minister to rethink.”
A spokesperson for the government said ministers are “determined to protect our country” and the progress made by the vaccination programme.
“We make no apology for taking decisive action at the border and introducing hotel quarantine,” added the spokesperson. “Every essential check has strengthened our defences against the risk of new coronavirus variants such as Omicron.”
Another couple affected by the rule changes are Alex and Kate Freed, who were on their honeymoon in South Africa when the country was placed on the UK’s red list.
Speaking to the PA news agency from their quarantine hotel near London’s Heathrow Airport, Mr Freed, 30, and Mrs Freed, 29, described the process as an “unorganised mess”.
“They put us on to a bus for the 30-second journey, but we were on the bus for three hours”, Mr Freed explained. “We were on a bus full of people, no ventilation.
“It was the most unorganised mess ever. People were crying. It just seemed like something from a film, it was a bit mad.”
He said he asked family members to deliver food to the hotel for him and his new wife because the hotel food is “inedible”.