The first people forced to quarantine in hotels after flying into Britain from 33 ‘red list’ countries were released at midnight as their 10-day detention comes to an end.
Around 1,200 people are currently in the quarantine hotels, a regime cooked up and imposed by the Government to suppress mutant variants of Covid from high-risk countries including Portugal and Brazil.
MPs were told this week that more than 100 people a day are going into the hotels at London Heathrow Airport, where they must stay for 10 days at a cost of £1,750 for the accommodation on risk of criminal prosecution.
Arrivals who lie about where they have been could be jailed for a maximum of 10 years, and if they leave before the end of quarantine they could be fined £10,000.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s extreme border crackdown sparked criticism from a chorus of lockdown opponents including senior Tory MP Sir Charles Walker and former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption.
However, the Government has not yet released data on how many people have tested positive for coronavirus since going into a quarantine hotel, with ministers expected to publish an update in the coming weeks.
The first passengers, who arrived at Heathrow Airport on Monday last week, are now allowed to return home. The second batch of arrivals will be allowed to leave the quarantine hotels at midnight on Friday.
A passenger entering quarantine is helped in to the Holiday Inn hotel, near Heathrow Airport, London, a Government-designated quarantine hotel being used for travellers to stay during a 10-day quarantine after returning to England from one of 33 ‘red list’ countries
A quarantined traveller holds a sign up to the window of her room at the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel near Heathrow yesterday
Wayne Kelly, of Birmingham, was part of the initial batch of travellers taken straight from London Heathrow Airport and into hotels when the new laws began, and was also fined £500 on top of the £1,750 for his accommodation for 10 days. Right, a man wearing a Boca Juniors football shirt gives a thumbs- down at the Radisson Blu Edwardian near Heathrow yesterday
A man exercises under supervision of security in the car park of Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel at Heathrow Airport
What are the rules for entering Britain?
- You cannot enter the UK if you’ve been in or through a country on the banned travel list (known as the ‘red list’) in the last 10 days, unless you’re British, Irish or you have the right to live in the UK
- You must either quarantine where you’re staying or in a managed quarantine hotel for 10 days
- What you need to do depends on where you travel in the 10 days before you arrive – if you travel in or through a country on the banned travel list within 10 days, you must stay managed quarantine hotel; if not, you can quarantine at home
- You need to provide your journey and contact details in the 48 hours before you arrive in the UK. You must do this by completing the online passenger locator form
- You’ll need to show proof that you’ve completed the form when you arrive at the UK border as well as proof of a negative PCR or antigen test taken three days before departure
- You could be fined £500 when you arrive at the border if you cannot provide proof that you have had a negative coronavirus test
- You do not need a test if you’re travelling within the UK, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey; from Ireland; from Ascension, Falkland Islands or St Helena; and children under 11 do not need a test
- After arriving at a quarantine hotel you will be tested on days two and eight of your stay using a PCR test self-administered in your room
- In Scotland, arrivals from all international destinations have to quarantine, even if they are not on the red list.
The Government has defended the scheme, insisting it is required to provide higher protection against the threat of Covid-19 variants by enabling health officials to better track any new cases which might be brought into Britain.
But some hotel guests have complained that the Government has breached their human rights and protested with a series of homemade signs ‘HM Prison Heathrow’ and ‘What a way to spend your birthday’.
One woman quarantining at the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel near Heathrow said she was forced to stay there when she could self-isolate at home – and despite testing negative for Covid-19.
She held up a handwritten message on a piece of paper behind the window of her room yesterday which read: ‘Government controlled hotel quarantine plan is in contravention of my human rights when I have a home to go to for self-isolation and have tested negative for Covid.’
Other guests staying at the four-star hotel were also pictured today giving a thumbs down as they leaned out of their window, with one of them wearing a football shirt of Argentinian team Boca Juniors.
Guests revealed their excitement at being released from hotel quarantine, with a British businessman who flew into the UK from Dubai unaware of the rules telling MailOnline he ‘can’t wait’ to see his family.
Wayne Kelly was part of the initial batch of travellers taken straight from Heathrow Airport and into hotels when the new laws began, and was also fined £500 on top of the £1,750 for his accommodation for 10 days.
Separately, the father of a 16-year-old boy with autism who is quarantining in a hotel after returning from Brazil has said the experience has left his son depressed, physically unwell and unable to eat properly.
Mr Kelly, 37, told MailOnline: ‘I feel like I have been through a prison sentence. I was thinking of having a poster on the wall where I could just cross one day off each day. I can’t wait to see my wife Nikki and our children.
‘I just want go back to Birmingham to my home and my family and put this all behind me. I should never been here in the first place. I had a negative test when I left Dubai.
‘My wife was picking me up in her car and taking me straight home. I would not have come into contact with any public. But I did come into contact with the public at Heathrow, so the whole thing was very confusing.
‘I would have been people among those passengers who were allowed to go home and yet I was put into hotel quarantine. And I’ve been here for nearly two weeks But I’m really glad that my release day is nearly here.’
The Radisson Blu Edwardian near London Heathrow Airport, pictured today, is among the hotels in the quarantine scheme
Nelio Salles De Siqueira, a chef from Peckham in south London, said his autistic 16-year-old son Caique Pires Salles will barely leave his bed after being forced to stay at the Holiday Inn near Heathrow Airport following their return to the UK from Brazil
33 ‘high-risk’ nations from which arriving travellers will have to quarantine in hotels
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Mr Kelly, who deals in real estate, added: ‘You can’t really tell what’s going on the world from a window. All I can see is a McDonald’s every day and cars pulling up for their takeaways.
‘Apart from the few breaks in the car park, I’ve just been sleeping all day, getting up late in the afternoon. My business has suffered, my family are suffered and I have suffered. I’m glad it is all coming to an end.
‘It is inhuman to have kept us in here like this. And then charge £1750 for the privilege.’
After the Health Secretary issued blood-curdling threats of 10 years in jail for travellers who lie about visiting mutant Covid-19 hotspots earlier this month, he was accused of ‘demeaning his office’.
Mr Hancock trumpeted the measure saying he made ‘no apology’ for how severe it was as he unveiled the extreme borders crackdown.
However, senior Tory MPs accused the Health Secretary of ‘stupidity’ over the sabre-rattling, pointing out that the country does not have ‘enough prison capacity to start locking up 19-year-old silly kids’.
Sir Jonathan Jones, the Government’s former top lawyer, said he would ‘eat a face mask’ if anyone was ever sentences to 10 years for lying on a form.
Former Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption branded the mooted maximum prison term ‘inhumane’ – pointing out it is longer than for some sex offences. And ex-Attorney General Dominic Grieve said courts would never impose the ‘draconian’ 10-year sentence.
Despite complaints of rights abuses, the majority of the British public told a YouGov poll they supported the hotel quarantine regime.
The survey from last week found 90 per cent approval of the scheme, while 72 per cent thought the rules should apply to all arrivals, not just those from the 33 countries on the UK’s ‘red list’.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said last week: ‘We recognise the impacts restrictions have on many and are grateful for the public’s continued efforts in helping to tackle this global pandemic by following the rules to protect others and save lives.
‘The new managed quarantine scheme and enhanced testing regime are necessary to provide a further level of protection against the threat of Covid-19 variants, by enabling us to better track any new cases which might be brought into the country.
‘All hotels are providing daily health and welfare support, and staff will seek medical support if they have health concerns about individual guests.’
Father autistic boy, 16, warns hotel quarantine is damaging his son’s health
Nelio Salles De Siqueira and his son Caique Pires Salles, 16
The father of a teenager with autism who is quarantining in a hotel at Heathrow has said the experience has left his son depressed, physically unwell and unable to eat properly.
Nelio Salles De Siqueira, a chef from Peckham in south London, said 16-year-old Caique Pires Salles will barely leave his bed after being forced to stay at the Holiday Inn near the airport following their return to the UK from Brazil.
He spoke of his anguish at being unable to help as his son begged to be taken home, despite notes from his psychiatrist and school warning that the experience would be ‘psychologically unhealthy’.
‘It’s quite frustrating that he had to go through it,’ Mr Salles De Siqueira said.
Mr Salles De Siqueira travelled to Brazil with his wife and son to attend a family funeral and, while they were there, new rules on quarantining for people returning to England from red list countries were introduced.
Before coming home, the family tried to find out if it would be possible to get an exemption from the hotel stay because of the effect it would have on Caique’s wellbeing, but were unable to find anybody who could help.
Mr Salles De Siqueira said: ‘We got notes from his psychiatrist, from his school saying it’s psychologically unhealthy, because his mental health is not great. But even like that, nobody would listen.’