THE first guests forced to stay in the government’s quarantine hotels raced out of their rooms just after midnight tonight as soon as their isolation periods ended.
Frustrated travellers, who arrived on the first day of the mandatory scheme, could have waited until the morning but decided to leave at midnight to avoid spending any more time in the hotel one described as “a prison”.
Mohammed Mostafa decided to leave the Holiday Inn near Heathrow just after midnightCredit: Doug Seeburg – The Sun
Karam Chand and his daughter Preah Pooja who came to pick him upCredit: Doug Seeburg – The Sun
From last Monday, UK and Irish nationals returning to England from countries deemed at high risk for Covid-19 have had to self-isolate in some specific hotels, paying £1,750 per person for their stay.
Those who breach the quarantine rules can receive fine of up to £10,000 or 10 years in prison, according to the Government.
The rule applies to people returning to Scotland from any destination.
If travellers return a negative test on day two and day eight of their stay they are allowed to leave, the Department of Health and Social Care said.
A dozen guests who arrived at the Holiday Inn near Heathrow Airport in London on February 15 were picked up by worried relatives after completing 11 nights in complete seclusion.
Mohammed Mostafa, 42, travelled home from visiting his sick mum in Bangladesh when he was quarantined under a technicality in a Holiday Inn.
‘VERY BADLY ORGANISED’
He told The Sun: “I wanted to get out of that hotel as soon as possible. It’s been an absolute horror story.
“I tested negative on Wednesday night so that’s why I am being allowed to leave.
“It is like a prison. I have just been waiting every day to go home.
“The airlines didn’t inform us that we would have to quarantine – it was very badly organised.”
Bangladesh is not on the government’s “red-list” of countries but Mohammed caught a connecting flight in Dubai which is why he had to fork out £1,750 for the mandatory hotel quarantine.
Mohammed and fellow guests have had to stay in their rooms apart from exercise outside surpervised by security guards.
Mohammed who travelled to London from Bangladesh via DubaiCredit: Doug Seeburg – The Sun
All of their meals have been delivered to their door and they have had to change their own bed sheets in the hotel.
Preah Pooja, 28, was waiting outside the Holiday Inn to pick up her dad Karam Chand, 52, who has been stuck in the hotel for 10 days.
She told The Sun: “He wants to leave as soon as possible so I am driving him back home to Cambridge tonight.
“He is an NHS worker and needs to get back to work
“I was here to pick him up from his flight last Monday because we didn’t realise he would have to quarantine – he only stopped over in Dubai.”
Karam said: “It has been an absolute nightmare.
“I work on the frontline so I know what effect the pandemic has had on people’s lives.
“I could have safely quarantined at home.
“I cried for three days because it was so horrible in there – just a box with no ventilation.”
Karam had travelled to Pakistan to visit his elderly father he hadn’t seen in eight years.
Guests were picked up by their worried relativesCredit: Doug Seeburg – The Sun
The first passengers who had to quarantine in a hotel can now return homeCredit: Doug Seeburg – The Sun
Delivery driver Roger Goncalves, 23, who was among the first travellers to be forced to quarantine at the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel near Heathrow Airport after arriving from Brazil, should be one of the first to taste freedom.
Another hotel “guest”, businessman Wayne Kelly, 37, of Birmingham, said he feels “like I have been through a prison sentence” and said he could not wait to return home and see his wife and children.
He told MailOnline: “I was thinking of having a poster on the wall where I could just cross one day off each day.
“I just want to go back to Birmingham to my home and my family and put this all behind me. I should never have been here in the first place. I had a negative test when I left Dubai.
“I’m really glad that my release day is nearly here.”
Another traveller, Zari Tadayon, 66, from north London, told the PA news agency on Wednesday she was “relieved” her quarantine was almost completed after arriving from Dubai last Monday.
She previously said she was unprepared for her stay and had not packed any books, adding: “How I’m going to cope I don’t know. It’s going to be tough.”
Some travellers have been complaining about the £1,750 fee they had to pay to quarantineCredit: Darren Fletcher Photography – Commissioned by The Sun
Some of the first travellers to quarantine will be able to return home on Friday morningCredit: Darren Fletcher Photography – Commissioned by The Sun
A quarantined traveller holds a sign up to the window of her room at the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotelCredit: PA:Press Association
A traveller holds up a sign reading: ‘Our results are negative for Covid-19’Credit: AP:Associated Press
A traveller who had to quarantine said she travelled to Britain for her mother’s funeralCredit: AP:Associated Press
Passengers arrive at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, near London’s Heathrow AirportCredit: AP:Associated Press
The second batch of arrivals will be allowed to leave the quarantine hotels at midnight on Friday.
Travellers arriving in England must quarantine in a hotel if they have been in one of the Government’s 33 “red list” countries – which covers Portugal, the United Arab Emirates, South America and southern Africa – in the past 10 days.
The UK has banned direct flights from those locations, so passengers must take connecting flights, mixing with passengers from countries not on the list.
The Prime Minister said last week he expects those in quarantine to be able to “cover their costs” when asked what happens if a person has to extend their stay after a positive test.
Boris Johnson said: “It is currently illegal to travel abroad for holidays anyway.
“We would expect people who are coming in from one of these red list countries to be able to cover their costs.”
Paul Lincoln, the director general of Border Force, said there are currently around 1,200 people in the managed hotels.
A fish and rice meal given to a guest at a hotel near Heathrow Airport in LondonCredit: PA:Press Association
He told the Commons Home Affairs Committee: “In broad terms there are about 14,000 or 15,000 people coming into the country on any given day – that is now about 95 per cent down from what we would have seen at this time routinely in previous years.”
More than 100 people a day have been forced into the quarantine hotels since the scheme began, according to Border Force.
Mr Lincoln said that “about a third or more” of them would be hauliers coming into the country and about a third of those are British citizens.
The Government has insisted the scheme was brought in to prevent the spread of further Covid-19 variants in the UK and help officials to track any new cases which might arrive into Britain.
Some of the travellers forced to stay in the quarantine hotels have taken to TripAdvisor to complain about “disgusting” meals and “basic” rooms.
One wrote: “I don’t like to write bad reviews however I find disrespectful what this hotel is doing to its guests.”
Another added: “Someone somewhere is making a lot of money out of us forced to stay here,” they added. “I cannot wait to get out of this hell hole.”
Travellers from ‘red list’ countries have to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotelCredit: PA:Press Association