My Heathrow quarantine hotel hell: tiny rooms, rude staff and cold curries

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Later that night we met a German family who had also had the misfortune to visit South Africa just as the country’s scientists were identifying the omicron variant. It turned out they had already been reallocated a flight back to Germany and would be allowed to simply return home to self-isolate. They were disappointed to cut their holiday short but also calm and relaxed. Everything my partner and I were not. When we told them what we were going through, they were shocked – and actually raised a toast to “not being British”. I couldn’t blame them. Anyway, at least we’d got a room and could return home. Some of the uncertainty was over and surely the hotel experience couldn’t be that bad considering they’d had time to improve it since earlier in the year. How wrong I was…

Last Wednesday we flew back to the UK with a bunch of other equally miserable people. Conversations revolved around the madness of the situation. We all grimaced as the pilot, upon arrival, made the faux-pas of saying “enjoy your onward journey”. At Heathrow we were herded onto a shuttle bus to a specially-designated terminal for red list arrivals. Once there we had to queue for an hour to get a slip of paper saying which hotel we were staying at, before we were then herded onto another bus. Once that bus was full, we were driven to what would be our new home for the next 10 days. However, once we arrived at the hotel, we were made to wait for another 30 minutes on the bus while they took our passports from us so they could sign us in at reception. The bus was packed and even more confined than the airplane. We asked if we could wait outside, but this was denied without reason. 

Once in the hotel, we had to wait in a holding area and fill out a bunch of forms before we could get our room key. As part of this, we had to choose every single meal for the next 10 days. By this point it was 21.30 and we hadn’t been fed since lunchtime. We were tired and hungry but the hotel manager assured us that we would be fed soon. Finally we were given our room key. 

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