Hotel chief blasts Government over quarantine hotels chaos

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Hotel chief blasts Government over quarantine hotels chaos

Boris Johnson's hotel quarantine plans have been savaged by an industry boss who claimed his firm is yet to hear from the Government on how the pol

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Boris Johnson’s hotel quarantine plans have been savaged by an industry boss who claimed his firm is yet to hear from the Government on how the policy will actually work. 

Rob Paterson, the UK chief executive of Best Western Hotels, said his company is being ‘kept in the dark’ by ministers and ‘we simply haven’t heard anything’.

Mr Paterson blasted the Government for announcing the proposals without a detailed blueprint as he said if he did the same on a major project ‘I am not sure I would have a job’.   

The Prime Minister suggested yesterday that Health Secretary Matt Hancock would set out the details today only for Downing Street to then insist that was a ‘misunderstanding’. 

There had been speculation that hotel quarantine could begin from February 15 but the continued delay in setting out the details means there are growing fears that date will be pushed back. 

The plans will see travellers returning to the UK from ‘red list’ countries – those where coronavirus variants have been discovered or where case numbers have rocketed – forced to pay to self-isolate in a Government-approved hotel for 10 days. 

The criticism of the roll-out of the policy came amid speculation that Spain could be added to the ‘red list’ after it recorded its first variant case last week and because of its close proximity to Portugal which is already banned.

Rob Paterson

Boris Johnson

Rob Paterson, the UK chief executive of Best Western Hotels, said his firm is being ‘kept in the dark’ by ministers over Boris Johnson’s hotel quarantine plans 

It is still unclear when quarantine hotels will be up and running in the UK. A Best Western Hotel located in Hounslow near Heathrow Airport is pictured

It is still unclear when quarantine hotels will be up and running in the UK. A Best Western Hotel located in Hounslow near Heathrow Airport is pictured

International travel is already prohibited under UK lockdown rules unless it is essential.

Ministers hope the hotel quarantine plans will help protect against importing Covid-19 variants which could threaten the nation’s vaccination drive.  

But the roll-out has been chaotic with the Government still unable to say when the hotels will be up and running.

Mr Paterson was asked during an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning if ministers had told his company what they want. 

He replied: ‘No, not at all. We got the understanding that quarantine hotels was something that was going to be considered in the UK quite some time ago now and we are yet to understand exactly what the protocols are required of the hotels. 

‘We have set out a set of protocols, we have shared that information, or suggested protocols, and we have offered our support and we are yet to hear anything.’ 

Asked if the Government had given any indication about how many travellers hotels could be asked to accommodate, Mr Paterson said: ‘No. I think in any normal company if you went out and announced a programme nationally and you hadn’t thought about how you were going to plan that and you hadn’t spoken to the people involved, I am not sure I would have a job if I did that in my company. 

‘To this day it seems logical to me that you would sit down with the airlines, the airport operators and the hotel operators and thrash this out on a Zoom call or whatever it might be. 

‘To this day we simply haven’t heard anything despite multiple offers. 

‘We have connections in Singapore and Australia and New Zealand who are doing this that we could learn from and easily get on the phone and offer their support and we are just a bit surprised that we just haven’t heard anything.’ 

Mr Paterson said his company had not been provided by the Government with anything ‘other than very broad information’ on the policy and that ‘we haven’t had any discussions at all’.

He added: ‘We have offered that help. We have got a lot of experience with the quarantine or managing Covid positive environments through the project we did with the NHS. 

‘As I say, we have all these contacts in other countries that have already rolled this out for some time, they could offer some really valuable support and we are just simply kept in the dark.’

Ministers are expected to meet today to discuss whether the existing ‘red list’, which is currently made up of 33 countries, needs to be expanded. 

The Government is facing growing calls from Labour and some Tory MPs to introduce a blanket hotel quarantine requirement for all UK arrivals. 

Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, said: ‘The Government’s plans around quarantine are in disarray.

‘Not only do they fail to go far enough – leaving open the door to potential vaccine resistant strains – they can’t even implement the half-baked plans that have been announced.

‘It’s now over six weeks since the South African strain was discovered and yet there is almost no reliable quarantine system in place. Conservative incompetence is putting people at risk.’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he believes hotel quarantine should apply to every international arrival, with exemptions only for people supplying medicines or food.

He said: ‘We’re calling for quarantine for everybody who arrives in the UK from any country.

‘There will have to be exceptions for medicines and foods – there always is – but for everybody else that is not within those exceptions, a full quarantine.

‘And the reason for that is because, in the first wave, 0.1 per cent of cases came from China where we had restrictions, 62 per cent came from France and from Spain where we didn’t have restrictions.

‘There is every reason to think the variant will behave in the same way and that’s why we’re saying to Government, “We’re in a race now, virus against vaccination, let’s secure our borders while we carry out the vaccination process”.’

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said this morning quarantine hotels are ‘part of a much bigger plan’.

‘If you come to the UK, already you have to quarantine for 10 days, you have to have a test within three days before travel, you have to fill in a passenger locator form… we already have a robust border policy,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Challenged over how ‘robust’ measures actually are, he said: ‘You have to have a pre-departure test before you arrive – people have to have that or they will be turned away.

‘When you arrive, you have to quarantine, even without the hotel quarantine operation yet in place, so the border policy, I think, with the passenger locator forms, where greater enforcement is taking place now than ever before, is robust.’ 

Mr Zahawi said Mr Hancock will set out further details on the policy ‘in the next few days’.

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