RPT: REVIEW - UK Hotel Quarantine Guests Criticize $2,450 Price Tag But Praise Rooms, Food

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RPT: REVIEW - UK Hotel Quarantine Guests Criticize $2,450 Price Tag But Praise Rooms, Food

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 21st February, 2021) The first individuals to enter England's new hotel quarantine scheme checked into their accommodation earlier this week, and two current residents of the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel near Heathrow Airport told Sputnik that while they had few complaints about their living conditions, the 1,750-pound ($2,450) price tag left a sour taste.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on February 9 that people entering England who had been in one of 33 designated "red list" countries in the 10 days prior to their arrival would have to spend 11 nights in one of 16 so-called quarantine hotels. The list includes countries where new COVID-19 variants are believed to be spreading, such as South Africa, Brazil, and Portugal.

Those who falsify information to try to hide their presence in one of the "red list" countries in order to avoid a spell in hotel quarantine face prison sentences of up to 10 years, Hancock said in parliament.

The scheme was brought live this past Monday, and several guests have made their complaints known to UK media outlets. Anthony Pium, a 30-year-old from London, filmed himself trying to leave the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel earlier this week, and he told the Mail Online portal that he was "being held under duress."

Nine in 10 Britons are said to support the hotel quarantine scheme, according to a YouGov poll published on Thursday, although residents who face more than a week without access to fresh air or the sight of greenery questioned whether there are other options available to ensure that those who enter the UK complete their period of self-isolation.

Maria Eugenia Oliveira, a 34-year-old Brazilian woman who lives in London with her husband and three-year-old son, told Sputnik that arrivals on her flight from Brazil were kept under strict supervision from the time they disembarked their aircraft to when they arrived at their hotel.

"All the way to the UK border there were signs everywhere and people holding the signs," Oliveira said.

Karen Scheffer, 62, who arrived in the UK from South Africa via Qatar, told Sputnik that it was easy to find her way to the required immigration desk for arrivals from "red list" countries.

"When we arrived we just disembarked and it showed you where you had to go to border control and knowing I came from a red-listed country, I saw the sign that said 'red-listed country, follow,' and I went up to these three gentlemen explaining that I've just arrived from Doha but I'm from South Africa. So, the one kindly took me down the red passage, if you can call it that, to border control," Scheffer stated.

Arrivals are required to show their passport, a negative COVID-19 test conducted at their point of origin, a form completed on the UK government website, documents proving their residency status, and their invoice for the hotel quarantine package, Oliveira said.

"So then he [immigration official] saw all the documents ... and then I remember he was writing down on three pieces of paper ... and then I signed two of them. One he gave to me, another one he kept, and then there was another small one that he gave to another person, and this person went with me to pick up my luggage at the belts downstairs, and then he walked with me to another person," she stated.

Oliveira said that the process took approximately two-and-a-half hours before she and 10 others arrived at the Radisson Blu hotel, and during that time, armed guards kept watch.

"When we were going from the side of the airport to the bus, there were a few people with guns in front of us and we had like a few people around us," she stated.

Scheffer and Oliveira explained that they would be required to spend 11 nights and 10 days in their rooms, adding that guests are tested for the coronavirus disease multiple times, and a test conducted on their eighth day in quarantine decides whether they are able to leave two days later.

ROOMS, FOOD LEAVE POSITIVE IMPRESSION

A guest at one of the 16 quarantine hotels told the BBC broadcaster earlier this week that their room was "like a prison," although both Scheffer and Oliveira said that their living conditions were up to par.

"The hotel is a four-star hotel, thank God. When you book you cannot choose the hotel but I'm here so it's good. It's very comfortable, everything is new, everything works properly, the bathroom is really good," Oliveira said.

Scheffer explained that residents have a choice over the meals, and raved about the quality.

"The food is brilliant. I cannot fault them on the food. I have a problem that they have to serve it to us in takeaway boxes, but I understand they have to do that.

The quality of the food is so good that you want it on a nice plate with nice cutlery," the South African said.

Oliveira said that she was surprised to learn that guests are not allowed to order food and drink not prepared in the hotel.

"I asked if I could order something like delivery or anything. In this hotel, they don't allow me to ask for any delivery. What they offer is, they send me a link, I put in my card details, they're going to debit like 50 quid [pounds, $70], and then I have a credit of 50 quid to spend in the hotel on beverages, alcohol, or anything else I want from the kitchen," she stated.

Despite the glowing reviews of the room and the food, Scheffer said that she overheard a confrontation in the hallway earlier in her stay.

"There was an altercation in the passage two days ago with one of the guests and a staff member and she said to the staff member, 'we're not criminals, we're not animals, we're not sick, we tested negative when we got here, but we don't know your status,'" she said.

Scheffer echoed the concerns that guests could contract COVID-19 during their interactions with hotel staff.

"But from getting to the airport, you don't know who touches your things, who does anything, until you get into the room and you still don't know that. So if you test positive now, you've picked it up from one of these people at the hotel, the airport, at border control, or wherever you were exposed to other people," she remarked.

HIGH COST LEAVES GUESTS DISSATISFIED

Both Scheffer and Oliveira expressed dissatisfaction with the 1,750-pound bill for the hotel quarantine package.

"I think it's totally exorbitant. For me, 1,750 Pounds is the money I put aside to go and visit my son in Melbourne [Australia], and I've not managed to see him since 2017. So for me, that was a shock to my system and my pocket. For that kind of money, I could get a wonderful holiday somewhere, so I still feel it's highly exorbitant," the South African said.

Scheffer added that the UK government should have either subsidized the cost of the stay or footed the bill entirely, given that arrivals from "red list" countries are required by law to enter hotel quarantine.

"I think they should have footed this bill because we can pick up the virus here, where they put us under duress ... If they want to put us in quarantine hotels then they should have reduced the cost or they should have carried the cost because they can't guarantee our safety in the hotel," she said, adding that she could have instead booked a cheaper stay at a bed and breakfast "where I could have at least seen a garden."

She also expressed her dissatisfaction with having to conduct the coronavirus swab test herself, adding that this was "the most horrible part of the whole trip for me."

Oliveira said that the government should give guests greater flexibility on how to pay for their stay in hotel quarantine, rather than being required to pay a lump sum.

"I know it's a lot of money. The only thing I think they should do is just be more flexible about the way we could pay ... I think they should be more flexible about the residence. You have your house, you pay your rent or mortgage, you have all the bills you need to pay," she stated.

Despite these concerns, Oliveira said that she was happy that the UK government was taking steps to curb the spread of new strains, making her criticisms of the Brazilian government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic known.

"I think it is a good idea, because it is good when you have a government that is really worried about the country and really worried about the population and their health ... I'm from Brazil ... they're not doing anything," she said.

Both guests said that they were keeping themselves busy by speaking to their friends and interacting with others on social media.

In particular, Oliveira said that she was blogging all the details of her stay to help other Brazilians who might not be fully informed of the hotel quarantine requirements.

Scheffer stated that she had made preparations for her stay in hotel quarantine, purchasing the necessary supplies to carry out beauty procedures. She added that her final day in hotel quarantine is scheduled to be February 25.

Several countries across the world, including Australia and Israel, have introduced hotel quarantine schemes for international travelers.

The Scottish government has brought in tougher rules than those in England, requiring all arrivals from outside the Common travel Area (UK and Ireland), to book a place in a quarantine hotel.