Two ways the Liberal Democrats stood up for people who have to quarantine in hotels

This time tomorrow, anyone arriving into

the UK from certain countries, and from any country into Scotland, will have to undergo ten days of mandatory quarantine in a hotel, an experience for which they will be charged £1,750.

I get that these measures are necessary. We do need to make sure that we limit the spread of new variants of Covid-19.

My issue, to be honest, is that I don’t think we should be charging for this if we think it is necessary to save lives. It’s arguable that it should have been done months ago. Typically both governments are acting too late and are being less than competent about the details of the implementation.

And we most especially shouldn’t be charging people who can’t afford it. If you are in a minimum wage job and a parent or a sibling dies or becomes seriously ill abroad, you are going to want to, in some cases need to, be with your family, to look after them. You should not be prevented from doing so because you can’t afford the cost of the quarantine.

The Scottish Government’s transport minister Michael Matheson announced on Tuesday that there would be a welfare fund to help people who couldn’t afford the cost of this quarantine.

But with less than 24 hours to go, we have scant details of what form this will take, how people will apply for it and how much they will get. Will it meet the whole cost or not?

Willie Rennie called on the Scottish Government to get its act together on this:

From people attending funerals in foreign countries to students who spent Christmas with their families and haven’t returned, the quarantine fees represent a huge financial hit. For many this will come on the heels of having already incurred substantial costs, very often at short notice.

“The Transport Secretary has announced there will be a welfare fund available to support those who need it but with the new rules kicking in on Monday, there is still no detail about how people can access this support.

“We know it doesn’t take much for new dangerous spreads and strains to take off – it was the case I made last summer when travellers were going untested and unchecked when experts were already warning about a second wave.

“It’s right that tough measures are being put in place to stop the virus spreading through international travel, but a little compassion included in these restrictions will go a long way.”

Earlier in the week, Alistair Carmichael our Home Affairs spokesperson called out the Tories at Westminster for quite literally taking liberties, by introducing a potential 10 year prison sentence for evading quarantine with no parliamentary scrutiny.

Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve described the Government’s action as “dystopian”

Grieve, who was Attorney General between 2010 and 2014, told PoliticsHome: “This is why all these other regulations and regulatory offences during the pandemic have been created, because you’re not going to go into a forgery act to prosecute people.

Alistair said;

“This was clearly an attempt to grab headlines and look “tough” with a ten-year sentence and it has gone badly wrong. If the crime of evading quarantine warrants a harsher sentence than assault or burglary then it warrants a debate and a vote in Parliament. Anything less is an abuse of the law-making process.”

On the Government’s plans to rely on a 40 year old counterfeiting law to introduce a huge jail sentence, he said:

“If making a mess of a form counts as “forgery” then half the country could be convicted as criminal masterminds. You cannot twist old laws to fit unprecedented situations. This disrespect for the rule of law is utterly illiberal and cannot be accepted.”

If you had told me a year ago that I’d accept the Government telling me to stay at home for months on end, I’d have been shocked. But it is for the benefit of others  so we can accept it. But when the Government rolls back our civil liberties by actively evading proper scrutiny, we need to be very worried indeed.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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21 Comments

  • Helen Dudden 14th Feb '21 - 2:23pm

    All this makes me feel increasingly uncomfortable, with the new take on democracy.

  • My issue, to be honest, is that I don’t think we should be charging for this if we think it is necessary to save lives.
    International travel during a pandemic is a luxury for 99% of the 25,000 people a day who arrived in the UK these last few weeks.
    They chose to travel, I see no reason why they shouldn’t pay.

    And we most especially shouldn’t be charging people who can’t afford it.
    Simple, there’s a global pandemic, don’t travel.
    A couple of months back a friend died from CoViD-19, we webcast the funeral so that everyone could attend without travelling. Yes, is not the same as being there in person, but there is a global pandemic…

  • I do think that travellers should have to foot the bill for their own Quarantine Costs, however, there should be very limited exclusions, for example, someone on limited means returning from a funeral abroad of a close family member ( Maybe it could means tested in these circumstances)
    But, the vast majority of people coming into the UK on a daily basis are not those and indeed many are people who are returning from 2nd homes or are coming back from holidays ( knowing full well that they should not have gone in the first place)

    My father in law is in a Nursing Home in Australia (End stage dementia and heart disease) , we have not been back to Australia since 2018 and doubt we will ever get to see him again. It is extremely tough on my Husband, but we accept that when the inevitable happens I can not go back as I am not an AU citizen, My husband can, but will have to do the 2 weeks quarantine in Australia at his expense. That is fair enough considering the wider risks to public health in Australia.
    No doubt if had a layover in Dubai on his journey home , he would have to quarantine in the UK as well, we accept that.

    That being said, we had the difficult conversation that in all likelihood, he would have to miss his father funeral. He has an elderly vulnerable mother in Oz, who he would not want to put at risk, and I have elderly vulnerable parents this end (including me) who he does not want to put at risk.
    They are extremely difficult conversations to have and nobody wants to miss the funeral of a loved one and the chance to say goodbye. There are no easy answers.

    But I do think we should at least be having the conversation of meeting the costs of Quarantine hotels in “exceptional circumstances” and only if the person has no means to meet the costs themselves.

    If it is someone coming back from Holidays, or 2nd homes, then I am sorry, absolutely not, they should not have been going in the first place, they should either meet the costs themselves, or stay where they are until restrictions are lifted.

  • Little Jackie Paper 14th Feb '21 - 7:19pm

    What a time to be alive.

  • There are some Britons living abroad that have to return because of accident and sickness. Such as this unfortunate individual a few months ago.
    https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/dad-stranded-thai-hospital-after-22971903

  • James Fowler 15th Feb '21 - 10:12am

    ‘If you had told me a year ago that I’d accept the Government telling me to stay at home for months on end, I’d have been shocked. But it is for the benefit of others so we can accept it. But when the Government rolls back our civil liberties by actively evading proper scrutiny, we need to be very worried indeed.’

    I find this statement really curious. These new restrictions are indeed disproportionate and iniquitous but are supposedly justified by the greater good – just like all the others. What’s new?

  • Little Jackie Paper 15th Feb '21 - 10:41am

    James Fowler

    What’s new is we are in a world where people of most political persuasions will fight for toilet paper but not for freedom.

    It is the most obvious slippery slope. These hotels will a) never end and b) be used far more widely than travellers.

  • At £175 per night, I hope the quality of service justifies the cost. I know that this is all inclusive (including Covid 19 tests), but I’m sure there are many hotels currently lacking guests that would provide the accommodation for far less.

  • Little Jackie Paper 15th Feb '21 - 10:57am

    Andrew Toye

    But that’s a big problem. We’re creating covid industries. These are never going to end because people have an interest in it not ending.

    We don’t need these things offering a better service. Of all the problems in this picture that seriously is not the one to worry about.

  • Apart from the hotels, has anyone considered how the travellers are getting to their hotels? The rules suggest they will be escorted, but if a flight of (say) 100 passengers comes in from a red country, who will be responsible for checking up on them and escorting those who need it?

  • @Alison C

    It does seem a bit of a fiasco.

    Heathrow were complaining about the Government not doing enough to help and that due to long ques at passport control people from red countries would be mixing with passengers from non red countries.

    This actually makes no sense considering the size of Heathrow airport, It has 4 Terminals and allegedly air travel is supposed to be down massively, therefore logistically it surely should have been possible to have all flights coming in from designated “Red Countries” assigned to a designated terminal for those countries only, therefore able to keep passengers arriving from other countries apart.
    All Passengers arriving in the designated terminal would then have been able to be processed and escorted on to their buses to their designated quarantine hotel and would not have had any contact with other passengers arriving from other countries.

    Surely it would not have been to difficult if passenger numbers and arriving flights are down as much as they say they are??

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Feb '21 - 12:39pm

    A very good response to an important matter, from this article and comments.

    I think Matt is correct. A limit to funds is awful if the travel is essential.

    As he and Roland imply, and many ought to say, much of the airline traffic is fuelled by self indulgence not sadness.

    Holidays abroad in a pandemic ought not to happen. In a war the supposed lockdown now, is as of nothing.

    We are in a war on a virus. The feeble level of support for sensible measures is poor in some people.

    Ten years sentence is ludicrous, I would avoid it by not allowing any travel from anywhere unless with quarantine. That way no lies can be told because everyone would have to quarantine.

    It is not for the few self indulgent, to dictate to the most who are responsible. Liberalism dislikes lack of balance of power. The loudest voices are increasingly the most irresponsible ones.

    The approach of parties ought to be as with our mps, many in Labour, some in government, measured but expressing concerns passionately.

    The CRG are as awful as the ERG!

  • Ronald Murray 15th Feb '21 - 12:46pm

    Those of us who have not taken a holiday or traveled any distance from home since this emergency began and complied with government advice should not have to contribute to those who must have holidays and cruises come hell or high water. A couple were on TV today who have already paid for several cruises, if they can afford that they can afford the hotel charge. For those who traveled on business or for study purposes it is another matter. In the case of business the employer/business should pay. For students and family emergency cases grants should be available. Another option would be to tag people who have returned from abroad.

  • Ronald Murray 15th Feb '21 - 12:49pm

    Furthermore I have missed three family funerals and five of good friends which would have meant traveling to Edinburgh and Borders from Kirkcaldy. While I see so called celebrities break the rules all the time.

  • Manfarang 15th Feb ’21 – 1:51am……………There are some Britons living abroad that have to return because of accident and sickness. Such as this unfortunate individual a few months ago.https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/dad-stranded-thai-hospital-after-22971903,,,

    I’m sorry but I have little sympathy for him and those like him…This person has lived in Thailand, by choice, for 5 years. I came across many ‘expats’ who, whilst living abroad, refuse to pay into the health system requirements of their adopted country…Even in the US I met those who boasted about saving $thousands in health cover, “Cos, if I get ill, I’ll go back to the UK for treatment”; such a preplanned ‘escape’ plan has its risks..

  • Expats
    In Thailand foreigners meet their own health costs and don’t pay into anything. People take out private insurance. One British man was seriously injured in a bad motorcycle accident but his travel insurance was void because the FCO had said all Britons had been told to return to the UK. At the start of the pandemic many Britons were stranded here because of flight cancallations. Older people often cannot get insurance because of pre-existing conditions. It is this group that find the restrictions upon returning very difficult and unfair.

  • Those Britons living abroad are not allowed NHS treatment for six months after their return to the UK. Those without permanent UK residence maybe charged for NHS treatment plus 50%.
    There was a time when those paying Class 2 NI contributions abroad were entitled to immediate NHS treatment but that was scrapped under Labour government reforms of the early 2000s.

  • Nonconformistradical 17th Feb '21 - 8:17am

    @Manfarang
    According to https://www.expatassure.com/thailand/

    “Healthcare in Thailand for expats

    Public healthcare

    If you are a permanent resident in Thailand, you must subscribe to the compulsory national insurance system on the same terms as Thai nationals. Healthcare is free within the limits of the facilities in the area where the patient lives, on presentation of their universal health insurance card (gold card).

    If you are not eligible for the national healthcare system or if you want to be treated in the medical facility of your choice, you will have to pay for treatment within the public sector; you would have to pay independently and then you may be reimbursed by your insurance providers if you are covered.”

  • Few foreigners have permanent residence. To obtain one, it is necessary go through a long and expensive process and it is very difficult to get. It is rarely available. Those I know who have one have never spoken to me about having a gold card. Thais started to get free healthcare with the 30 baht card but what care is available in state hospitals isn’t very good. Now Thais use their ID cards at state hospitals instead of a card.

  • I can give an example of a state hospital . Not far from where I live is an eye hospital. I go there to get my eyes checked. I have to get up early as it takes me the best part of a day. I get there early in the morning as there are 500 patients on a single day. Yes 500. Many come from the provinces as the provincial hospitals are not well equipted. I pay but it is not that expensive.
    One of the world’s biggest hospitals is Siriraj in Bangkok. That has 10,000 patients a day.

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