A week ahead of hotel quarantine being introduced for arrivals to the UK from 33 countries, a British traveller who experienced the Australian version has warned of the formidable challenges involved.
“There is so much to enforcing a quarantine system with so many other agencies needing to be involved: border control, police, army, plus a medical team based in the hotel,” Gordon Ronald told The Independent. He landed in Sydney in July 2020 after gaining permission to visit his partner, and was assigned to the Sheraton on the Park in the city.
“The Aussie system in Sydney works because they have a no-nonsense approach. Border control and the police do head counts on the plane on arrival, and explain the legislation – and penalties.
“You are then processed by medics before immigration. There was a manual temperature check by a nurse after leaving the plane and questions about any coughs, sore throat, loss of taste or smell.
“You take your own luggage to a coach outside where the cases are loaded by the army.
“On the coach the police again read your rights and the consequences of breaking quarantine. The coach then departs the airport with two police motorcycle escorts to your hotel – which is still a mystery at this stage.
“On arrival at the hotel the police then take groups of four passengers into the hotel for check-in at a time. The check-in was not at main reception but in a basement area with four staff who processed your booking.
“You were then asked to identify your bags and, having done that, one passenger at a time was accompanied to their room by a soldier who carried the bags.
“You were then put into your room for the 10 nights.
“Great room but no window to open – no fresh air so after nearly 24 hours on a plane it is very difficult to adjust to.”
Another “quarantinee,” Chloe Cann, australia-covid-restrictions-b1793435.html”>wrote in The Independent: “The key to surviving quarantine is to embrace it”.
But Mr Ronald says he found quarantine “very tough”. His three daily main meals were prepared by the authorities – “certainly not Sheraton quality”. In normal times, the hotel promises “six distinct dining venues offering sophisticated cuisine from around the world”.
Mr Ronald said: “Once it’s delivered they knock on the door three times and you are instructed to allow 10 seconds before opening your door. Hot food is delivered in a small plastic takeaway container.”
His partner “dropped off food snacks and drinks to keep me going” and came to wave at him from the street eight floors below.
He was able to establish an exercise routine: “I ended up walking and jogging around the room and managed to get up to 5km per day. I am not sure how smokers cope.”
Returning to the UK this month, Mr Ronald was surprised to see how relaxed the experience was.
“I just don’t understand why something as basic as temperature checks cannot be set up at UK airports for all international arrivals,” he said.
The government has estimated 1,000 arrivals per day will go into hotel quarantine. But some senior figures in the travel industry have questioned the estimate.
“The 10-day warning looks designed to persuade the vast majority of those in the ‘red list’ countries to get here before the deadline,” said an aviation executive.
The UK government has confirmed that, a week before the hotel quarantine scheme is imposed, no contracts have been signed with accommodation providers.
In Australia and New Zealand, 100 per cent of coronavirus cases are brought in from abroad.
The comparable figure in the UK for December 2020 was 0.1 per cent. Because passenger numbers have collapsed since then, the current proportion is believed to be much lower.