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Workers at risk in rushed Covid hotel rollout

Unions call for talks over staff safety fears

BORIS JOHNSON’S rushed Covid-19 hotel quarantine plans are putting workers and the country at risk, GMB warned today.

The Prime Minister’s scheme could allow more contagious strains of the virus to spread because security and hotel staff have been left without proper protections, the union said.

The new rules require British and Irish nationals and UK residents who return from 33 “red list” countries, such as Portugal, Brazil and South Africa, to spend 10 days in government-sanctioned hotels.

Each person is charged £1,750 for their stay.

Passengers arriving at airports are being escorted by security personnel to coaches that take them to nearby hotels.

But GMB has requested urgent talks with security firms to ensure that guards are given thorough risk assessments, full personal protective equipment (PPE), a knowledge of each hotel’s ventilation system and clarification of their role in the quarantine plans.

GMB national officer Nadine Houghton slammed the government for putting staff at risk and branded the policy — delivered in part by notorious security privateers G4S and Mitie — a “shambles.”

“The government has given security companies less than 36 hours’ notice to put staff and plans in place to carry out this policy,” she said.

“This isn’t just about the safety of workers, it’s about preventing new variants from spreading at a time when we are beginning to turn the tide on the virus.

“By ensuring they are protected and that procedures are safe, we can better protect the rest of the population.”

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said that the inability to separate “red list” travellers from others on flights and in airports meant that the “half-baked, unworkable policy” was bound to be ineffective.

“This creates an unacceptable risk to the health of the British people, undermining the hope and progress being made on the vaccine,” he said. 

“The public will not forgive the government for getting this wrong.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted that the new system has been operating smoothly, adding that he was helping airports and hotels to deal with any problems.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was meanwhile criticised for not taking bolder action sooner, as stricter rules came into force north of the border.

All travellers – not just those from high-risk countries – are now required to complete hotel quarantine in Scotland.

But Manuel Cortes, general secretary of transport union TSSA, accused the SNP government of “waiting to follow the Tories’ lead” by delaying the policy.

“Nicola Sturgeon has had the capability to set Scotland’s quarantine rules since last March — and we’ve seen that she was happy to do that when it came to closing the border with England,” he said.

“But when it comes to making decisions that might hurt her popularity, like forcing people to quarantine in a hotel, all she does is copy the Tories.

“Australia has had hotel quarantine rules in place since March 2020 and has successfully kept down infection rates as a result.

“Yet the SNP have waited until now to bring similar rules in, and 8,726 people in Scotland have sadly died.”

The Scottish government said that the new rules were “necessary and appropriate.”

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