Father and son in quarantine at Edinburgh hotel still appealing to get out
A father who joined his ten-year-old son in self-isolation after the boy was ordered to a quarantine hotel when he arrived in Edinburgh for a 14-day visit says he has still had no response from the authorities after nearly a week in confinement.
Antiono Caraballo said it was clear from the paperwork before his son Sami left Finland, where he lives with his mother, that the plan was for him to self-isolate at the family home and before Sami was allowed to board the plane the airline checked with UK authorities that he did not require a hotel booking.
But on arrival at Edinburgh last Saturday, Sami was told he would have to isolate in a quarantine hotel, leaving Mr Caraballo, who is a key worker in the oil and gas industry, no choice but to join him at a cost of £2075.
The Scottish Government says children under 11 are exempt from having to be tested for Covid-19 on arrival to Scotland, but not from having to stay in a quarantine hotel.
Mr Caraballo said: “It's Friday, so my concern is if we don't get something resolved today we're pretty much stuck here. It's just really frustrating I don't even have a phone number where I can explain my situation.
"Before Sami flew here I filled out a passenger locator form indicating he was going to isolate at home.
“Since the requirement is that passengers have to book a hotel and Sami didn't have a hotel booking, the airline contacted the UK and they gave the green light. He was the last passenger to board.
“It was only when he got here there was confusion about what should happen.”
Mr Caraballo is doing his best to carry on working while at the hotel while Sami plays on his PS4. They watch TV and go outside for exercise. “I call reception, a guard knocks on the door and we're escorted to the parking lot at the back of the building and we're given 30 minutes. Normally they take us within half an hour of my call,but I called at 1pm and they said because there was such a long queue of people to go out it would be 3.30 before we could go.”
Meanwhile, waiting at home in Marchmont is Mr Caraballo’s wife Rachel and three-year-old daughter Amelia.
If the quarantine has to run its full length, the family will only have a few days together before Sami has to fly back to Finland next Saturday.
Mrs Caraballo said she was consulting lawyers to see if anything could be done.
"My 10-year-old stepson has effectively been incarcerated in a hotel,” she said.
"Even if someone could take the time to explain in plain English why and under what law this is happening I might be a bit more reassured that this is really necessary, but there has been no explanation whatsoever.
“It seems as if the Scottish Government is just waiting until the ten days are up and then it will go away.”
She said they had had no big plans for Sami’s planned fortnight’s stay.
“You can't do much anyway, it was just about being together as a family. We don't have our own garden but a neighbour lets us use their garden so we would have been playing outside with the children.
“My daughter doesn't understand why she can't see her brother and why her dad has suddenly disappeared – she has a very close relationship with both of them.
"I feel really hopeless and upset about the weekend without having them at home. On Saturday we would have watched a movie and got some pizza and we have some disco lights - we could have done some dancing, but none of that is going to happen.”
The 11 nights of quarantine will end on Tuesday, meaning Mr Caraballo and Sami can leave the hotel on Wednesday.
"Does that mean we could collect them at midnight? Is there any chance they could leave on Tuesday night? There is no-one we can speak to, we don't know who is in charge.”
Edinburgh South Labour MP Ian Murray has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon over the case but is still awaiting a reply.
And Sami’s granny has sent a letter to Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard asking for his help. She wrote: “The stupidity of the situation is surely highlighted by the fact that Finland has had only 737 Covid deaths, compared with 7,053 in Scotland and a massive 122,000 in the UK as a whole.
"If they could be given permission to leave earlier than the stipulated ten-day quarantine this would at least allow us to have a little more time with Sami.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We understand how difficult this is for families with children, but to manage the risk of importing new variants and to give vaccine deployment the best chance of bringing us closer to normality these limits on international travel are necessary.
“The clinical advice is clear that a comprehensive system of managed quarantine is essential to minimise the impact of new Covid-19 variants. This means children must enter managed isolation regardless of whether they are accompanied or unaccompanied. We must restrict how many exemptions are in place otherwise the policy will not be effective."