Travel

Stalag Heathrow: The bleak airport hotels set to become home for Brits returning from quarantine

Hotels near Heathrow Airport will take at least three weeks to be ready to host travellers arriving to the UK who have to quarantine, MailOnline has learned.

The Cabinet coronavirus operations committee is today finalising an Australian-style hotel quarantine system that will cost up to £1,500 for ten days’ self-isolation with meals served to their room and supervised by security.

But as Boris Johnson prepares to sign off the new tighter border controls, a manager at The Holiday Inn on the M4 near Heathrow warned: ‘I’ve heard it’s about a three week turnaround to convert them to quarantine centres.’

As the Holiday Inn boss told MailOnline some hotels would not be ready to accommodate guests until the middle of next month, a number of hotels along the A4 Bath Road leading up to the airport remained open and ready to take guests, but staff appeared unaware of the government’s plans.

Next to the airport, the Ibis Hotel already has two guests paying £44-an-night to self-isolate after travelling back to England from abroad.

From the outside, the hotel resembles a 1980s office block and the 356 rooms are basic and mostly small containing a Television, a wooden writing desk and bed.

A manager at the hotel said: ‘Guests are required to remain in their rooms at all times and must not leave while in self-isolation. We provide room service and have staff on 24-hours if they are needed.

‘The rooms are £44-a-night but that doesn’t include meals. If people want to quarantine here for ten days it’s going to cost about £500.

A plane passes over the Travelodge Hotel at Heathrow as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to approve plans to force some travellers arriving to the UK to quarantine in hotels to limit the spread of new coronavirus variants

A plane passes over the Travelodge Hotel at Heathrow as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to approve plans to force some travellers arriving to the UK to quarantine in hotels to limit the spread of new coronavirus variants

The Courtyard Hotel, owned by Marriott, stands empty as thousands of hotel rooms will be filled every day once the quarantine scheme comes in

The Courtyard Hotel, owned by Marriott, stands empty as thousands of hotel rooms will be filled every day once the quarantine scheme comes in

Terminal 5 at Heathrow was quiet today but thousands of people every day will be expected to head into quarantine for ten days

Terminal 5 at Heathrow was quiet today but thousands of people every day will be expected to head into quarantine for ten days

The Best Western hotel group (Heathrow branch pictured today) is said to be interested in taking part in the quarantine scheme, which involves guests changing their own sheets and towels during their ten-day stay

The Best Western hotel group (Heathrow branch pictured today) is said to be interested in taking part in the quarantine scheme, which involves guests changing their own sheets and towels during their ten-day stay

Holiday Inn is also understood to be ready to open up its thousands of rooms in the UK to people travelling in when the PM brings in a quarantine system

Holiday Inn is also understood to be ready to open up its thousands of rooms in the UK to people travelling in when the PM brings in a quarantine system

Who will be forced to quarantine and can I upgrade my hotel room? We answer the vital questions about the Government’s new Australia-style isolation for travellers 

Who will be forced to quarantine in hotels?

As a first step, British travellers returning from high-risk countries where new strains of the virus have been detected, such as Brazil and South Africa, will be forced to isolate for ten days in airport hotels. 

Foreign nationals are already banned from entering the UK from these places. The Government is looking at widening the hotel quarantine requirement to all arrivals at airports and ports from everywhere around the world, but wants to pilot the process with a smaller group of people first. 

Boris Johnson will gather ministers today to sign off on the plans with a decision announced either this afternoon or tomorrow.

What will happen on arrival?

Travellers who face enforced quarantine will be taken by bus to a hotel where they will have to remain for ten days. 

Officials have begun talks with hotel groups about block-booking rooms that can be used for isolating. 

In Australia, people are required to stay in their room the entire time with security guards patrolling the corridors. Hotel staff are forbidden from cleaning the rooms during a person’s stay.

British travellers returning from high-risk countries where new strains of the virus have been detected must isolate for ten days in airport hotels

British travellers returning from high-risk countries where new strains of the virus have been detected must isolate for ten days in airport hotels

Can you upgrade your hotel?

Travellers will not get a choice of hotel. In Australia, people do not know in advance where they will be staying and are warned there is no guarantee of access to a balcony or open window.

What are you supposed to do all day?

In Australia, exercise outside is not allowed so guests are encouraged to do stretches or yoga in their room. 

A guide given to travellers to help prepare for hotel isolation suggests planning different activities to break up the day. Examples given include getting in contact with different friends and family, learning a foreign language on a mobile phone app, trying out a new hobby such as knitting and calligraphy, and catching up on ‘life admin’. 

The advice recommends planning ‘rewards’ to look forward to such as a phone call with a loved one or the delivery of a treat. People sharing rooms with partners and family members are encouraged to set ground rules for the stays such as scheduling a time each day when everyone does a ‘quiet’ activity to help avoid disagreements.

Last summer an outbreak of coronavirus in Melbourne was blamed on security guards having sex with guests at one of the quarantine hotels.

Who pays the hotel bill?

The Government will arrange transport for travellers to their accommodation, but they will have to cover the cost of their hotel room, estimated to be about £1,500. The cost of 14 days in a quarantine hotel is £1,692 for an adult in Australia, £1,630 in New Zealand and £642 in Thailand.

 

‘We have at least two guests staying with us at the moment who have themselves decided to self-isolate after flying back from other countries.

‘Whether this hotel will be included in an official list of quarantine hotels, I can’t say at the moment as I don’t have that information.’

Along the A4 Bath Road leading to the airport, the Radisson Blu is open to key workers and travellers from abroad as is the London Heathrow Marriott.

The Holiday Inn is a building site as it is currently being converted into a Best Western. The Premier Inn is currently shut. The Renaissance Hotel is open to flight crews and key workers.

The Novotel is open to key workers only but staff said they have no knowledge on quarantine plans. The Crown Plaza on the M4 is closed now to public and is being used as an immigration centre.

During the first lockdown last year, the Holiday Inn Heathrow Ariel was used as a quarantine centre for passengers entering England.

The circular hotel, just off the busy duel carriageway and underneath the thundering Heathrow flight path has seen better days and is now building site.

White panelling on the outside of the building is gaudy and the brickwork looks tired and faded but it is currently being renovated inside to re-open soon as a Best Western Hotel.

Rob Paterson, chief executive of Best Western Hotels, today revealed his hotels would be well-prepared for the expected new quarantine policy.

He said that some sites already have Covid infection controls in place because they have been used to host ‘step-down’ patients who complete their recovery in hotels to free up hospital beds.

Mr Paterson told BBC Breakfast quarantining customers would like to see reduced prices, a contact arrival process, CCTV and security to stop people leaving and meals delivered three times a day outside the door – along with clean linen and towels.

MailOnline visited the new Heathrow Best Western hotel today but a security guard, hidden beyond seven foot wooden boards surrounding the site, refused to be drawn on plans for a quarantine centre and said simply they were currently closed because of redevelopment work.

He said: ‘Will this hotel be a quarantine hotel? I don’t know, I can’t tell you. All I know is that at the moment, it’s closed and being redeveloped. It will re-open again soon as a Best Western Hotel.

Guests staying at the nearby Sheraton Skyline Hotel can pre-book ‘quarantine packages’ but at a cost of £110-a-night.

The hotel is currently being used by airline staff, one of whom told MailOnline: ‘I don’t really think too much of the service here to be honest, some of it leaves a lot to be desired.’

A receptionist said: ‘The rooms are £110-a-night but have to be pre-booked on our website. As to any official requests made by the Government for opening up our rooms solely for quarantining passengers, I don’t think we’ve heard anything yet.’

It was the same story next door at the Marriott Hotel, where a manager said: ‘The list of hotels requested to be used to quarantine people travelling back home from abroad has not yet been decided.

‘We expect more Information to be released either later today or tomorrow.

The Renaissance Hotel across the road, meanwhile, is currently open to key workers, mainly flight crew from airlines using Heathrow, but is very quiet.

A member of staff said: ‘We are expecting news on which hotels will be used as quarantine centres in the next few days, maybe as early as tomorrow, but at the moment we’re in the dark and haven’t been told anything.’

The Radisson Blu hotel say they have no plans to become a quarantine hotel while a large Premier Inn further along the Bath Road A4 is currently closed with notices on the reception door saying the decision is in line with the Government’s guidance on Covid-19. Snow and ice still coat the pavement outside the hotel.

A Courtyard by Marriott hotel nearby has also been shut down. A lone security guard who came to the door said: ‘I don’t know when it’s going to re-open – maybe next month or March?’

It comes as ministers continue to hammer out the details of plans for ‘quarantine hotels’ for travellers arriving in the UK today amid warnings that they would bankrupt the UK’s travel industry and ruin the summer plans of millions of Britons.

British holidaymakers have cancelled their 2021 summer breaks abroad and European beaches are empty today ahead of an expected decision tonight to introduce an Australian-style system that would see them locked up on their return.   

Mr Johnson is expected to sign off on plans this evening to divert travellers entering the UK from high-risk Covid countries into hotels to stop new mutant strains of coronavirus like the ones from Brazil and South Africa entering the UK. But a decision on whether to expand the plan to those coming from other countries would be delayed.

The PM wants to force travellers entering the UK into quarantine hotels for 10 days where guests will change the sheets, empty the bins and be fed airline-style food three times a day while paying £1,500 for the privilege.  

Premier Inn (pictured on the A4 near Heathrow) says it is waiting for the Government to publish guidance in relation to quarantine for international travellers before announcing if it will take part

Premier Inn (pictured on the A4 near Heathrow) says it is waiting for the Government to publish guidance in relation to quarantine for international travellers before announcing if it will take part

Marriott are also said to have held discussions with the Government having opened its doors to quarantining people in other parts of the world

Marriott are also said to have held discussions with the Government having opened its doors to quarantining people in other parts of the world

Radisson (pictured at Heathrow today) says its hotels has also been equipped with resources to handle suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) and  is ready to lockdown for quarantine purposes

Radisson (pictured at Heathrow today) says its hotels has also been equipped with resources to handle suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) and  is ready to lockdown for quarantine purposes

Novotel (pictured at Heathrow) has been used by the Australian government for quaranting purposes and could do the same for the UK

Novotel (pictured at Heathrow) has been used by the Australian government for quaranting purposes and could do the same for the UK

Luxury hotel group Renaissance has a Heathrow base and its famous Hong Kong Harbour hotel has been used for quarantine in the past year

Luxury hotel group Renaissance has a Heathrow base and its famous Hong Kong Harbour hotel has been used for quarantine in the past year

Who could be exempt from hotel quarantine?

Under the Government’s current border rules some people do not have to adhere to self-isolation requirements.

It is not yet clear if these exemptions would be carried over should ministers press ahead with hotel quarantine. 

The current exemptions include:

Aerospace engineers who need to take a test but do not have to self-isolate. 

Aircraft pilots and crew who do not need to take a test and do not have to self-isolate. 

BBC broadcasters who do have to take a test but do not need to self-isolate. A blanket exemption for all journalists ceased on January 18. 

Medicine workers who do have to take a test but do not need to self-isolate. 

Crown servants or government contractors who do not need to self-isolate if they are travelling for essential work.

Drivers of goods vehicles who do not need to present a negative test prior to departure and who do not need to self-isolate.

Elite sportspersons who do have to have to take a test but do not need to self-isolate.

None of the above exemptions are valid for travel from countries which are currently subject to a travel ban. 

But there are grave concerns that the scheme will have no fixed end date – causing havoc for businesses – and may take weeks to set up.

Amid fury from the industry and consumers, a government source told MailOnline the decisions on the plan will ‘go down to the wire’, adding: ‘The meeting will be where the decision is taken. It’s not just rubber stamping.’ 

They also cautioned that some of those coming in might not be able to pay for their own hotel stay, and there might need to be means-tested support. 

‘There’s a problem with Brits with not a lot of money … you can see it coming like a slow motion steamroller.’

It came as Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said it was ‘too early’ to book a summer holiday abroad – but some anxious Britons took to social media to admit the warning came too late, with some having bought flights for as early as the half-term holidays in mid-February. 

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel company The PC Agency, said: ‘This is destroying confidence among holidaymakers. People are not booking summer holidays because they don’t believe there is an end game which will see these blanket measures removed. 

‘This is a sure-fire way of destroying Britain’s aviation and travel industries. The Government needs to signal that they will withdraw the hotel quarantine rules by the end of March and return to a system of quarantining arrivals from high-risk areas only.’

In a joint statement, the Airport Operators Association and Airlines UK insisted the country already has ‘some of the highest levels of restrictions in the world’ and that introducing tougher rules would be ‘catastrophic’. ABTA has urged all its travel agent members to lobby MPs in a bid to convince Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak to agree a multi-billion pound cash bailout for the industry.

A small number of Britons say they are now stuck in Spain and the Canary Islands, where the usually bustling beaches and promenades were largely deserted, as experts fear Mr Johnson’s quarantine plan could bankrupt Britain’s already ailing tourism industry. 

And photographs from some of Europe’s most popular resorts, including Benidorm, show its beaches are deserted with bar and restaurant owners telling MailOnline they will go bust if the Brits don’t visit this year.

Stuey Lee Lewis, 70, owner of the Geordie Bar Tat in Benidorm’s Rincon area, said: ‘Things are really bad. We had locals in but we can’t survive on locals, we need the Brits. I know they’re missing our home-cooked chips, a cold beer and our sun terrace’. Expat Terence Burgess, 74, told MailOnline: ‘I was in Benidorm last week and there wasn’t a soul about. It was very sad to see. I went to my favourite karaoke bar to sing and I was the only one in there’.

The quarantine measures will lead to a slew of cancellations and people will not book summer breaks in yet another economic hammer blow to holiday firms and airlines, particularly if, as feared, the travel restrictions stretch into the peak season. Industry leaders have called for a better sector-specific bailout package from the Chancellor.   

IBIS has been involved in quarantine schemes in New Zealand and India, where car parks were used to allow people in rooms to exercise each day

IBIS has been involved in quarantine schemes in New Zealand and India, where car parks were used to allow people in rooms to exercise each day

The Sheraton Group has been open for quarantine in Australia and the United States

The Sheraton Group has been open for quarantine in Australia and the United States

But with some 97,939 deaths now recorded, Britain is set to hit the grim milestone of 100,000 lives lost since the start of the pandemic. It will be the fifth country to do so after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico. 

The UK yesterday recorded another 30,004 Covid cases, down almost a quarter on last Sunday, and a further 610 deaths 

But the Prime Minister last night said he wanted ‘maximum possible protection against reinfection from abroad’ to prevent new coronavirus variants jeopardising the vaccination programme. At a meeting of the Covid-O committee at 6pm this evening, Cabinet ministers will consider making it compulsory for all travellers to quarantine at hotels, regardless of their nationality and where they come from. A formal announcement on the agreed scheme may not come until tomorrow. 

One government source told MailOnline the decisions on the detail will ‘go down to the wire’. The meeting will be where the decision is taken. It’s not just rubber stamping.’

They also cautioned that some of those coming in might not be able to pay for their own hotel stay, and there might need to be means-tested support. ‘There’s a problem with Brits with not a lot of money… You can see it coming like a slow motion steamroller,’ the source said. 

British travellers arriving back from South Africa and Brazil will be the first forced to quarantine in airport hotels. Boris Johnson will today sign off on plans to toughen border controls by putting new arrivals into isolation.   

Passengers arriving into Heathrow Airport have faced chaos for days as they were forced to queue for hours to get through passport control. Pictures of crowds at passport control have become common, raising fears that the lack of social distancing could easily spread Covid. 

Change your own bed sheets and meals dropped by your door: Best Western chief reveals grim Covid protocols faced by travellers forced to quarantine in airport hotels for up to £1,500 

A large room at the Best Western - Chiswick Palace Hotel

A large room at the Best Western – Chiswick Palace Hotel 

British travellers arriving back from high-risk coronavirus hotspots will be made to change their own bed sheets and eat meals in their rooms in an ‘entirely contactless and sterile experience’ as they are forced to quarantine in airport hotels.  

Boris Johnson will today sign off on plans to toughen border controls by putting new arrivals into isolation, at their own expense – with a ten-day stay costing up to £1,500.

Rob Paterson, chief executive of Best Western hotels group, said the industry was ready to assist protocols of quarantining international arrivals, which would see guests confined to their rooms, with three meals delivered each day to their doors. 

He said the franchise could mobilise hotels for quarantining travellers returning to the UK, with 5,000 rooms ready ‘within 24 to 48 hours’ and said it would be an ‘entirely contactless and sterile experience’. 

He told BBC Radio 5 Live today that hotels will operate a one-way system, with travellers checking in via a contactless system before being escorted to their room by a staff member in PPE. They then remain there for ten days, with CCTV cameras in corridors to ensure no one breaks the rules. 

‘We deliver three meals per day to the door which the occupant comes out and collects those meals and then cleaning is clean sheets and towels waiting outside the room for the person to safely dispose of their previous sheets and change their own to keep the safety and infection protocols high’, he said.

New rush to book staycations: Family Easter breaks already cost a FORTUNE as price of rental cottages, Center Parcs, Haven and Butlins soar by up to 325% – now the race is on for summer holidays 

British families planning an Easter staycation are facing soaring prices of rental cottages with some coming in at three times higher than a fortnight earlier.

Center Parcs, Haven and Butlins have all hiked their prices for Easter as they plan to reopen in March despite concerns that the national lockdown will still be in place.

But Britons desperate for some respite from the coronavirus crisis are looking closer to home as fears mount over the future of foreign holidays this summer.

At Center Parcs in Woburn Forest, Bedfordshire, a two-bed Woodland Lodge for seven nights from March 19 for £978, while from April 2 it is £2,498 - a rise of £1,520 or 155 per cent

At Center Parcs in Woburn Forest, Bedfordshire, a two-bed Woodland Lodge for seven nights from March 19 for £978, while from April 2 it is £2,498 – a rise of £1,520 or 155 per cent

At Butlins Bognor Regis, a Gold Apartment for four people is on offer for a week from March 19 for £318, but £1,353 from April 2 - an increase of £1,035 or 325 per cent

At Butlins Bognor Regis, a Gold Apartment for four people is on offer for a week from March 19 for £318, but £1,353 from April 2 – an increase of £1,035 or 325 per cent

It comes as passengers arriving in England from high-risk coronavirus hotspots look set to be made to quarantine in hotels to limit the spread of new variants.

The Prime Minister will discuss the proposals – designed to ensure people follow self-isolation rules – with senior ministers at the ‘Covid Operations’ committee today.

Holiday price hikes at Butlins, Center Parcs and Haven sites 

(These figures were found today for a family of four staying for four nights)

BUTLINS – BOGNOR REGIS

Gold Apartment; 2-bed, sleeps four

  • March 19 – £318
  • April 2 – £1,353
  • Difference: £1,035 – 325%
  • July 12 – £1,048
  • July 26 – £1,701
  • Difference: £653 – 62% 

CENTER PARCS – WOBURN FOREST

Woodland Lodge; 2-bed; sleeps four

  • March 19 – £978
  • March 29 – £2,498
  • Difference: £1520 – 155%
  • July 12 – £1,608
  • August 2 – £2,178
  • Difference: £570 – 35%

HAVEN – RIVIERE SANDS

Standard caravan; 2-bed, sleeps four

  • March 19 – £186
  • April 2 – £502
  • Difference: £316 – 170%
  • July 12 – £623
  • July 26 – £1,218
  • Difference: £595 – 96%

Holiday operators regularly hike prices for Easter to make the most of high demand, but this year it seems extremely high compared to a few weeks before.

At Butlins Bognor Regis in Somerset for example, a Gold Apartment for four people is on offer for a week from March 19 for £318, but £1,353 from April 2 – an increase of £1,035 or 325 per cent.

The same room is available for a week from July 12 for £1,048 – rising to £1,701 from July 26, after the summer holidays start, an increase of £653 or 62 per cent.

Meanwhile at Center Parcs in Woburn Forest, Bedfordshire, a two-bed Woodland Lodge for seven nights from March 19 for £978, while from April 2 it is £2,498 – a rise of £1,520 or 155 per cent.

The same accommodation at the site for seven nights this summer is £1,608 from July 12 or £2,178 from July 26 – an increase of £570 or 35 per cent.

As for Haven, a standard caravan for seven nights at its Riviere Sands resort in Cornwall is on sale from March 19 for £186 or from April 2 for £502 – a rise of £316 or 170 per cent.

Looking ahead to summer, the same property for the same time length is £623 from July 12 or £1,218 from July 26 – a difference of £595 or 96 per cent.

There are also fears prices could rise further if the VAT cut for hospitality and staycation accommodation from 20 to 5 per cent ends as planned on March 31.

As for Airbnb, a cottage in Portesham, Devon, is going for £737 for seven nights from March 20, but £889 from April 3 – a difference of £152 or 21 per cent.

A barn via the same website in Helston, Cornwall, is up for £973 for a week from March 20, or £1,068 from March 3 – a difference of £95 or 10 per cent.

Meanwhile a survey found most Britons have come to terms with not going abroad in the foreseeable future, with only 12 per cent planning to do so.

The figures haven’t moved much from summer and autumn last year. They peaked in July when 17 per cent of people planned to go abroad.

The polling by YouGov found younger people are still more likely to say they’re going on holiday abroad. 

One in six 18-24-year-olds (16 per cent) said they had plans to do so, compared with 9 per cent of those aged 65 and older.

But the number of people hoping to enjoy a domestic trip in the next six months is lower now (29 per cent) compared with in July (45 per cent) last year.

It comes as passengers arriving in England from high-risk coronavirus hotspots look set to be made to quarantine in hotels to limit the spread of new variants. 

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi warned that the country needs to be ‘very careful’ as new strains emerge, and said an announcement on the quarantine plans would be made later. 

Despite reports suggesting it could take up to three weeks to implement the policy – partly due to the logistical challenge of arranging accommodation for thousands of arrivals – the head of a major hotel chain said they could mobilise ‘within 24 to 48 hours’. 

 

At Haven, a standard caravan for seven nights at its Riviere Sands resort in Cornwall is on sale from March 19 for £186 or from April 2 for £502 – a rise of £316 or 170 per cent

At Haven, a standard caravan for seven nights at its Riviere Sands resort in Cornwall is on sale from March 19 for £186 or from April 2 for £502 – a rise of £316 or 170 per cent

A survey byYouGov found most Britons have come to terms with not going abroad in the foreseeable future, with only 12 per cent planning to do so

A survey byYouGov found most Britons have come to terms with not going abroad in the foreseeable future, with only 12 per cent planning to do so

Various options for quarantining arrivals are said to be on the table, but Whitehall sources suggested that ministers may opt for a more limited system after aviation leaders warned that introducing tougher border rules would be ‘catastrophic’ for the industry.

In a joint statement, the Airport Operators Association and Airlines UK insisted the country already has ‘some of the highest levels of restrictions in the world’ and that introducing tougher rules would be ‘catastrophic’.

Reports have suggested that arrivals in England would have to cover the price of quarantining in hotels for 10 days, potentially setting them back more than £1,000.

It is understood that the requirement to isolate in a hotel would apply to arrivals from most of southern Africa and South America, as well as Portugal.

However, Conservative former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the proposals might need to go further than applying only to those arriving from countries where new variants of Covid-19 have been discovered.

 

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