Confusion as people flee quarantine hotelson December 15, 2021 at 2:15 pm

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The government had told quarantine guests to stay put after removing all 11 countries from the travel red list.

A woman packing

Image source, Getty Images

Some hotel quarantine residents say they have left the government-approved facilities early and returned home, despite not having permission.

It comes after ministers removed all 11 countries from the red travel list on Wednesday at 4am.

Guests in hotels have been told that they will be released from their 10-day quarantines early in due course, but they should stay put for now.

Ministers are set to give details about early release on Wednesday lunchtime.

People who break red-list quarantine rules can face a penalty of up to £10,000.

One guest near Gatwick airport told the BBC hotel staff had tried to stop her leaving, but she’d walked out. She saw several cars parked outside picking up other people.

Another said security guards told her and her husband to return to their rooms, but they were able to board a minibus they’d arranged to take them home.

The couple took lateral flow tests and tested negative on Wednesday morning before leaving.

Roughly 5,000 people have come through the hotel quarantine system since the red list was re-started in late November, according to Jonathan Mogford, Senior Responsible Officer for Borders and Managed Quarantine Service at the UK Health Security Agency.

Speaking to the Transport Select Committee on Wednesday, he said the latest figures suggested about 5% of people in the hotels had tested positive for Covid. Of those, between 1% and 3% had Omicron.

Arrangements to release people early were being “sorted as quickly as possible”, he said.

He added that officials do not want to release Covid or Omicron-positive guests immediately and that “we need to make sure that we’ve notified those are positive that they remain in the hotels”.

The countries on the red list included Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

But on Tuesday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Omicon had spread so widely the rules no longer had much purpose.

It was later was confirmed that those currently in managed quarantine would be allowed to leave early and “follow the rules as if they had arrived from a non-red list country”. But anyone who has tested positive will have to remain in isolation in the hotels.

Since late November, all UK arrivals from red list countries have been required to pay for and self-isolate in a pre-booked, government-approved hotel.

Some travellers have paid thousands of pounds, with complaints of chaotic organisation and inedible food during their stays.

The health secretary has said he is considering calls for guests to be reimbursed.

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