‘Significant gaps’ in Covid hotel quarantine plans, says Heathrow | Heathrow airport

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The UK’s biggest airport has expressed concern that the government’s hotel quarantine policy is not ready, 48 hours before it is due to be launched.

From Monday travellers arriving in the UK from 33 “red list” countries must isolate in a hotel room for 10 days at their own expense, but a spokesperson for Heathrow airport said “some significant gaps remain” before the policy could be effectively carried out.

“When the government announced its hotel quarantine plan, we immediately offered our help to make this successful in a complex airport environment. We have been working hard with the government to try to ensure the successful implementation of the policy from Monday, but some significant gaps remain and we are yet to receive the necessary reassurances,” the spokesperson said in a statement issued on Saturday morning.

The airport urged the government to act urgently to ensure staff had the resources and instructions to launch the policy next week.

“We will continue to work collaboratively with government over the weekend but ministers must ensure there is adequate resource and appropriate protocols in place for each step of the full end-to-end process from aircraft to hotel to avoid compromising the safety of passengers and those working at the airport,” the spokesperson said.

It comes a day after immigration officials, who are expected to enforce the policy, warned they were in the dark about even basic details of the system.

The Immigration Services Union (ISU), representing many of the Home Office’s immigration officers, said staff were yet to be given details on how or when people obliged to quarantine would be taken to hotels. They were also unsure whether they were required to check for arrivals who had not properly declared their status.

On Friday, preparation for the hotel quarantine stays was marred by technical issues that prevented people from booking hotel rooms, with an official booking portal going down.

There are also concerns that the policy does not go far enough. Unlike the hotel quarantines in Australia, guests will be allowed to exercise once a day in hotel grounds as long as the area is “suitable”, security guards and hotel staff will not be tested regularly, and security guards will not given a higher-specification mask.

The policy was announced on 27 January in response to the spread of new strains of coronavirus in South Africa and Brazil which may be more resistant to vaccines. However, contracts with hotels were not agreed until Tuesday, and the full legislation for the rules was not published until Friday evening.

The Department of Health and Social Care has been approached for comment.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘Significant gaps’ in Covid hotel quarantine plans, says Heathrow | Heathrow airport

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