Quarantine hotel chaos forces ministers to DOUBLE number of rooms available after families were sent to different lodgings 100 MILES apart for their 10-day isolation
Families trying to get back to Britain from red list countries are now being forced to split up and quarantine in hotels up to 100 miles apart, it was revealed today.
A lack of available rooms for returning travellers in London has forced parents to separate from their children as the Government scrambles to increase capacity.
Government officials have now doubled the number of quarantine hotel rooms available after the expansion of the red list to include 11 countries in recent days.
It comes as Ministers were accused of failing to get a grip on greedy Covid-19 testing companies ‘gaming the system’ to rip off holidaymakers as new rules came in today.
One family from Sheffield returning from South Africa have been forced to split up with the mother in one room and their six-year-old son with the father in another.
They were told they could not all stay in one double room and instead had to pay for two rooms which will cost them more than £4,500, reported The Times.
One of the hotels is at London Gatwick and the other in Milton Keynes. Their MP Olivia Blake criticised the ‘ridiculous’ situation and said she knew of other examples.
The hotels cost £2,285 for 11 nights for one adult in one room, then £1,430 for an extra adult or child over 11, and £325 for a child aged 5 to 11. Under-fives are free.
Janine Akers, 66, the boy’s grandmother, told The Times yesterday: ‘They haven’t told their son yet and I don’t know what the stress is going to be when he’s told.
The Dale family including parents Rachel (left) and Jason (second right) and their daughters Lilly (left), 15, and Poppy (right), 18, who arrived at London Gatwick Airport this morning
Lewis Hunt and Ebony Cox stand next to their suitcases after arriving at Gatwick this morning
Katie Jerram-Hunnable stands outside London Gatwick Airport after arriving this morning
A quarantine room at the Holiday Inn Express at Heathrow Terminal 4, pictured this week
A family from Sheffield returning from South Africa were forced to split up with the mother in one room at Gatwick and their six-year-old son with the father in another in Milton Keynes
‘When they got the two room bookings confirmed they had no choice but to take them otherwise they may have been stranded over Christmas.’
She said that they were about £6,000 out of pocket after they also had to defer their flights for £250 and find additional accommodation in South Africa for £600.
Q&A: What are the new travel rules for Britons?
What are the new travel rules?
From 4am today, everyone over 12 travelling to the UK needs to have taken a pre-departure test – either lateral flow or PCR – to prove they don’t have Covid-19. This test is mandatory, including for those who are vaccinated.
What if I test positive overseas?
Britons are advised to contact the British embassy or consulate for advice. You will have to abide by the quarantine rules that apply in that country. This will involve a period of quarantine in a government-approved hotel or facility at your expense, which could run to several hundred pounds. You will need to fund any medical treatment required. You can return home after testing negative, but will probably need to pay for a new flight.
What happens after I arrive home?
Returning travellers must self-isolate at home until they take a day two test. This must be a PCR test, which is booked before you travel and bought privately from a government-approved provider. You must self-isolate until you get a negative result.
What about travel insurance?
Some policies, such as those offered by the Post Office, include coronavirus cover. This will include trip cancellation and curtailment cover; overseas medical and repatriation costs.
What if I want to cancel a foreign trip?
You don’t have a legal right to a refund. But most tour operators and airlines will give you a voucher to re-book at a later date.
What countries are on the red list now?
Ten southern African countries were added to the UK’s travel red list because of Omicron – South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia. Nigeria was added from yesterday.
What are the travel rules for red list countries?
You should not travel to red list countries for holidays. People returning to the UK from a red list country must take a pre-departure test and undergo a hotel quarantine for ten days, with a test at day two or eight. Quarantine currently costs £2,285 for a single adult and £1,430 for a second adult.
What happens next?
These are temporary measures introduced to prevent further Omicron cases from entering the UK. They will be examined at the three-week review point on December 20.
A Government spokesman told MailOnline: ‘The quarantine measures we have in place are minimising the risk of variants coming into the UK and safeguarding the hard-won progress of our vaccination programme.
‘The majority of passengers who have used the Managed Quarantine Service have been satisfied with the service and we aim to keep families together. We would advise guests to raise any concerns with hotel staff in the first instance.’
Whitehall sources added that if extended families are placed in separate rooms, these people would not be allowed to intermix between rooms unless there was an interconnecting door between the rooms and the guests were from the same family.
They said they were not aware of any families being placed in separate hotels having booked together, and the aim was to keep families together at the time of booking.
It comes as Sajid Javid swerved demands to compensate the travel industry yesterday, as he insisted that new restrictions were needed to control the spread of the Omicron variant.
The Health Secretary defended the introduction of pre-departure travel tests, which came into force today, just days after ministers insisted they were not needed.
He said pre-departure testing ‘could have a greater role to play in identifying positive cases before travel’ because of new data suggesting Omicron could have a shorter window between infection and infectiousness.
Mr Javid said he ‘fully understood’ the impact on the travel sector, adding: ‘This hugely important part of the economy has been hit again and again.’
But he ducked repeated questions about whether the government would provide extra financial support for the industry, which is still in recovery from the repeated lockdowns of the last two years.
Travel industry leaders yesterday accused the government of over-reacting and demanded a package of financial support for an industry facing a collapse in bookings and mass cancellations.
Chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, Julia Lo Bue-Said, called the sudden changes to the rules ‘a fatal bullet for many travel agents’.
She said: ‘Once again we are at the mercy of a Government who can’t communicate with each other.’
British Airways’ chairman and chief executive, Sean Doyle, said: ‘The blanket re-introduction of testing to enter the UK, on top of the current regime of isolation and PCR testing on arrival is completely out of step with the rest of the world, with every other country taking a measured approach based on the science.
‘Our customers will now be faced with uncertainty and chaos and yet again this a devastating blow for everyone who works in the travel industry.’
Travel industry trade body, ABTA, said: ‘The re-introduction of pre-departure tests will be a huge blow to travellers and an already devastated travel industry, which has been the hardest hit sector throughout the crisis and which is now fast approaching the key booking season for next summer.
Passengers queuing for a Covid-19 test in the arrivals area of London Gatwick Airport today
Food provided to a couple in quarantine at the Holiday Inn Express at Heathrow this week
Food provided to a couple in quarantine at the Holiday Inn Express at Heathrow this week
‘While we have always been clear that public health must be the priority at this time, the Government must now step up to save jobs and businesses.
How much quarantine hotels cost passengers
Here are the prices of quarantine hotels which have to be paid for those returning from red list countries:
- 1 adult in 1 room for 10 days (11 nights) – £2,285
- Additional rate for 1 adult (or child over 11) – £1,430
- Additional rate for a child aged 5 to 11 – £325
- Child under 5 – free
The price includes transport to and from the hotel; accommodation, food and drink for the whole of the stay; and any Covid-19 tests which need to be taken during the quarantine period.
‘The industry needs financial support, which recognises these measures will significantly weakens demand and the Chancellor must now consider the reintroduction of furlough for travel industry to avoid further job losses.
‘Travellers must also be supported with measures taken to offset the cost of these additional tests by reducing the cost of PCR testing – including a price cap and the removal of VAT.
‘It’s vitally important this decision is reversed as quickly as possible, in line with scientific and medical advice, as it is simply not possible for the travel industry to recover properly while this huge barrier to consumer confidence is in place.’
Chief executive of Airlines UK, Tim Alderslade, said: ‘It is premature to hit millions of passengers and industry before we see the full data. We don’t have the clinical evidence.
‘The red list extension made complete sense – that’s what it’s there for – but we know from experience that blanket restrictions do not stop the importation of variants. It’s already here.
‘They’ve now changed their travel advice twice within a week and it’s just impossible for anyone to plan.
‘These measures must be removed as quickly as possible in line with the speed of the booster programme.’
Thomas Cook said: ‘We know that our customers are keen to get away safely and we’re working with everyone booked in the next few weeks to help them understand the new testing requirements.
‘We are also working to rearrange customers’ holidays where we can if they choose to move to a later date.’
What are the 11 countries on Britain’s red list?
Gary Lewis, chief executive of The Travel Network Group, which represents more than 1,200 travel businesses in the UK, slammed the changes.
He said: ‘The latest Covid travel announcements are a punch in the stomach for the travel industry just as we approach the important Christmas period, the ski season and the traditional January summer holiday booking peak.
‘The travel industry has taken on huge debts to service customers throughout this crisis without earning any profits from the impact of customer refunds and cancellations.
‘We need the government to provide a package of financial support to ensure survival against the impact of these latest announcements. Direct financial support, delay to debt repayments, deferral of HMRC liabilities, and provision of grants for agents who are at the forefront of customer conversations.
‘The government should also immediately improve customer support by providing free, easy to access PCR tests for travellers and stop the enormous costs of hotel quarantine by simply enabling track and trace to allow home quarantine for arrivals from red list countries.’
It comes as rogue firms are taking advantage of new travel rules to advertise expensive PCR tests for as little as 30p – only to sting families with sky-high fees.
Revised rules mean all arrivals to the UK must take a PCR test within two days, and not just the cheaper lateral flow test as before. This is because PCR tests can identify variants such as Omicron.
Companies on the Government-approved list have been promoting the low prices in order to appear at the top of online searches.
But once travellers click through to the website they can get caught out by ‘fees’ of £59 or more. Just yesterday firms were offering PCR tests for £15, which then came with a fee of £79. It could leave a family of four facing a bill of £376.
The issue has arisen because, although in theory travellers can get self-swab tests for just £15, there are very few available.
Experts have called on Health Secretary Sajid Javid and watchdogs the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to act.
Which? travel editor Rory Boland said: ‘The Government’s official list of PCR test providers is still rife with companies promoting misleading prices and we are yet to see any meaningful action from the CMA’s audit of the private testing system.’
The CMA recently sent letters to 25 PCR providers, warning them to review their terms and conditions – or face action.
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The 30p PCR tests – with a £59 fee: How rogue firms are ripping off families and taking advantage of shock changes to the travel rules
Rogue firms are ripping off families and taking advantage of shock changes to the travel rules which require people to take expensive PCR tests to prove they are clear of Covid.
Companies that boast of carrying official government approval are advertising what appear to be cheap PCR tests to tempt travellers to click on their websites – only to impose sky high fees.
Some companies have been promoting test charges of as little as 30p in order to appear at the top of online search lists but, in reality, the fee is £59.
Passengers arrive at London Heathrow last Tuesday as more travel restrictions come in
Just yesterday, a number of companies were offering PCR tests, which must be taken on the second day after returning from overseas, for £15, however the link went through to a page with a fee of £79.
People can – in theory – buy an appointment to visit a test provider to carry out a self-swab PCR test for £15, but there are very few available.
Some companies are charging over £200 per traveller for the tests, which means families can be hit with huge and unexpected bills.
There are also concerns that some of the firms are failing to deliver PCR test kits or provide results within stated timescales, while some then fail to pay refunds when customers are let down.
The Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, and watchdogs at the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) are under pressure to weed out rogues and provide access to cheap, efficient testing firms.
The Which? Travel Editor, Rory Boland, said: ‘Travellers have been let down badly by a private PCR testing market that is not fit for purpose. Passengers have had to navigate rogue providers, test kits that arrived late and, in some cases, results that didn’t arrive at all, while often paying eye-watering prices.
The Government website of approved Covid-19 travel testing firms is run by the UK Health Security Agency which is part of the Department of Health and Social Care
‘Given that PCR tests are now mandatory for all travellers returning to the UK, the government must take steps to properly regulate the marketplace.
‘The government’s official list of PCR test providers is still rife with companies promoting misleading prices and we are yet to see any meaningful action from the CMA’s audit of the private testing system.’
The CMA has provided advice to the UK Government on ways to make the PCR testing market work better for consumers. These include improving the basic standards to qualify for inclusion and remain on the official list of providers; monitoring providers on this list and swiftly removing, and sanctioning, those firms that don’t meet these standards; and adding information to enable consumers to compare providers properly and find the best deals for them.
Mr Boland said the government should be taking urgent action to implement the CMA’s proposals.
The CMA recently sent letters to 25 PCR providers, warning them to review their terms and conditions – and other practices – or risk facing enforcement action. It currently has formal investigations open into 2 PCR providers, Expert Medicals and Dante Labs.
The travel industry trade body, ABTA, warned the high cost of tests is hitting families in the pocket. It said: ‘While Abta understands that this is a rapidly evolving situation and public health must come first, the decision to require all arrivals to take a PCR test and self-isolate until a negative result is returned is a huge blow for travel businesses, many of whom were only just starting to get back on their feet after 20 months of severe restrictions.
‘These changes will add cost to people’s holidays, which will undoubtedly impact consumer demand and hold back the industry’s recovery, so it’s vital that this decision is kept under careful review and restrictions are lifted promptly if it becomes clear there is not a risk to the UK vaccination programme.’