Covid Scotland: Scot in hotel quarantine while father terminally ill in hospital labels system an 'absolute disgrace'
A Scottish woman who returned home from a red list country to visit her dying father has labelled the hotel quarantine system an “absolute disgrace”.
Claire Herriot, 39, flew to Scotland from Turkey after doctors said her father Gordon, 75, had major organ failure and was approaching the end of his life.
But she has been allowed just one visit to see him at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and fears he will die before she is allowed to leave quarantine.
Having to leave her father’s bedside was “traumatic”, she said, adding that he was confused and upset by her leaving to return to the Hampton by Hilton where she is in quarantine.
Ms Herriot said she felt she was going through a mental health crisis brought on by the distressing circumstances, but has not been allowed to leave on these grounds.
"This situation is an absolute disgrace,” she wrote in a letter to the Scottish Government’s managed isolation team asking to be exempted from quarantine.
"The rules are cruel, arbitrary and logically indefensible.”
Ms Herriot applied for permission to leave the hotel to visit her father before leaving Turkey, but her first request was denied.
After several calls to lawyers, a call to Kilmarnock Sheriff Court and contact with the health secretary, this decision was overturned.
She flew to Scotland on Tuesday and began a ten-day quarantine period at Hampton by Hilton near Edinburgh Airport as the hotels used in Glasgow were full.
Ms Herriot was allowed a four-hour visit to her father on Wednesday, but while she initially hoped for more visits this has not yet been granted.
She said she now feels the situation has impacted her mental health so severely she should be allowed to leave the hotel on the grounds of her own health.
“The sole purpose of my being here is to visit my father and unless I had got exemption, I wouldn't have come, because the idea of being stuck in this room when he dies is just unconscionable to me,” she said.
“I would rather be in Istanbul with my boyfriend in this hotel room in Edinburgh, on my own, and my boyfriend can't come with me because he’s American and can't get in from a red country.
“I only travelled because I managed to get this visit and the language is so imprecise on the website that I wasn't sure if it was visit, or visits.
“So I was thinking ‘OK, I'll get at least one and then we'll take it from there’.”
Ms Herriot said an advice sheet in the hotel told her to contact a medical professional within the venue if she felt she should be allowed to leave on mental health grounds, but staff at reception were not aware of this and she wasn't able to contact any medic.
Staff told her to call NHS 111, who Ms Herriot said were not able to help.
A spokesperson for Hilton said the information about a medic had been provided by the Scottish Government, which is responsible for access to the service.
Staff directing Ms Herriot to NHS 111 did so on Scottish Government advice, Hilton said in a statement.
"Hilton are in touch with Ms Herriot directly to ensure her stay is as comfortable as possible,” the spokesperson said.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with Ms Herriot and her family during what must be an incredibly difficult time.
“We recognise the need to facilitate temporary release from managed isolation in order to support family visiting for those receiving end of life care. This is why the regulations do allow for an individual who is quarantining in Scotland to see a close family member or friend for a visit when relating to the end of a person’s life.
"Ms Herriot was provided with a visit to see her father upon arrival in Scotland and we are more than willing to facilitate a visit plan to enable Ms Herriot to visit her father on subsequent occasions. We have said Ms Herriot may visit her father upon day two and eight provided she has negative test results.
“However, the current regulations require that persons authorised to make end-of-life visits must return to managed isolation following the visit.
“International travel restrictions including the use of managed isolation remains necessary to limit the importation of the virus and variants of concern.”
Details of the harrowing experience in quarantine emerged as demand for flights from the US to the UK surged on Thursday in the wake of the UK and Scottish governments announcing the scrapping of the quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated travellers.
Virgin Atlantic said it received more than three times as many bookings for flights from New York to London compared with a week earlier, while total bookings across all its US to UK routes more than doubled.
The time period analysed is from when the new policy was announced on Wednesday afternoon until 9am on Thursday, and the same period last week.
Fully vaccinated travellers from the US, the EU and a handful of other European countries will no longer need to self-isolate for 10 days when entering Britain from 4am on Monday.
Virgin Atlantic chief commercial officer Juha Jarvinen said: “We know there’s pent-up demand to travel and our surge in bookings for US-UK travel reflects this.
“The news that self-isolation for fully vaccinated US citizens arriving into the UK will be removed from August 2 has increased consumer confidence, allowing our customers to finally plan a much-needed reunion with family, friends and business colleagues.
“Flight bookings are up by more than 100 per cent week-on-week, with bookings from New York to London increasing by nearly 250 per cent, compared to the previous week.
“We’ve missed flying our US-based customers and we’re excited to welcome them back on board soon.”
The surge in bookings came as Scotland’s health secretary said the decision to change self-isolation requirements for people arriving from Europe and America should have been communicated jointly.
The decision was announced on Wednesday, with reports appearing early in the day before an official announcement from Whitehall ahead of a similar announcement made by the Scottish Government in the afternoon.
Mr Yousaf said: “We’d rather the UK Government had worked with us and we could have got to a joint position and communicated that jointly, that would have been a better position to be in.”
He added: “In terms of communication, I would have preferred it to be done a way where the four nations did that jointly.”
The decision, the health secretary said, addresses an “anomaly” over vaccines.
“I think there was a bit of an anomaly there for people who had been vaccinated from vaccines that we would recognise here in Scotland,” he said. “I’m pleased that anomaly has been fixed.”