As hotel quarantine begins its price rise and its use all but confirmed for many months to come, questions around its necessity and value for price have begun to come up and whether it really is preventing cases from skyrocketing.
On 15 February of this year, hotel quarantine was officially put in place for all travellers arriving from red list countries, where travellers would have to spend 10 days, 11 nights, in a managed hotel before being allowed back into the general public.
The policy’s implementation came after mounting pressure on the Government to put in stronger border measures to tackle the rise in Covid cases and new variants emerging from travellers.
At the time the shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, said the delay in announcing details of the policy was putting people at risk.
His sentiments came amid the concern over the Beta variant which had been discovered six weeks prior but with few measures to handle it.
The hotel quarantine measures were based off the Australian and New Zealand systems which had effectively eradicated Covid in a matter of months and resulted in both countries having little to no cases for the most part of the pandemic.
Where the UK differs, however, is in its policy to who was allowed in as only those on the red list had to be in managed quarantine while all others could quarantine at home – despite all passengers being on the same plane and in the same queues.
Regardless, hotel quarantine has remained in effect for over 60 countries since February, as Britons awaited their vaccines, with many families and people hoping for an end to the quarantine system promptly.
Unfortunately the Government has in recent days announced further price increases to the programme in a bid to deter individuals from visiting high risk countries and to cover the rising costs of the hotel.
Around 30,000 people have been said to have passed through hotel quarantine but the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has reiterated that people should not be travelling to red list countries and only people British or Irish citizens, or people with permanent rights of residence should make use of this system if absolutely necessary.
Many stories have emerged from hotel quarantine with many expressing their disgust and discomfort with the various hotels they were placed in and has since resulted in a review of hotel security after multiple women reported being sexually assaulted by male security.
These concerns along with the cost factor has been part of the debate ever since about whether these hotels are worth the amount and the new price being set at £2250 many feel undercut by the policy.
Matt Brown, a civil engineer from South Africa, moved to the UK in May and had to go into a managed hotel for his 10 days of quarantine.
He said: “Although I was exhausted from my travels and not particularly in the mood to spend an exorbitant sum of money for my 10-day isolation, I was still excited to do my time and start my new adventure.
“Other passengers along with myself, were anxious about which hotel we were being assigned to, as no options were available upon the booking of the hotels.
“Stories were shared, some good and some not so good, from certain individuals who had known someone who had already experienced the quarantine.”
Matt was placed at the Radisson Blu Heathrow hotel for his 10 days, where he told SW Londoner that he was one of the lucky ones as he had good quality food which came three times a day and had multiple options and adequate time to exercise, something that he found extremely helpful to get through the whole ordeal.
He said: “One of the things I looked forward to was my guarded time outside. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go out into the parking lot multiple times a day for an extended period.
“Just experiencing the fresh air and the ability to do some exercise and actually talk to other people face to face become really important, especially for my mental health.”
This is in stark contrast to others, however, with some travellers staying in other hotels describing ‘horror scenes’ where in one incident a woman was put onto an IV for food poising and in a more recent incident where a traveller had to be moved to two different rooms due to a rat problem.
The choice of hotels is left up to CTM, the company tasked by the government to manage all quarantine bookings in England, and travellers are either lucky enough to be placed in the five-star Radisson or a rat infested Mercure London Heathrow.
Matt continued: “Despite my stay going off without a many glitches, I can’t justify spending that amount of money again, especially for myself as I am new to the work force and that money could has been better spent towards my future.
“Unfortunately I won’t be returning back home to see my family until South Africa is removed from the red list because I just cant afford it and don’t want to run the risk of being in a worse hotel.”
Matt is not alone in his feelings towards the entire quarantine process with a group of travellers who have stayed in the managed quarantine hotels now launching legal action against the government over these rules.
PGMBM managing partner Tom Goodhead said: “Mandatory hotel quarantine is a fundamental breach of human rights. It has led to the false imprisonment of people who are fully vaccinated and have tested negative.
“Prisoners are entitled to more liberty than those forced to quarantine in hotels.”
Currently there are no plans to scrap the system and with the fee increase it may be a sign of a longer future with hotel quarantines but with more than 77% of the total UK population having had two vaccines it will be seen if restrictions for travellers will ease further and the costly quarantines scrapped.