News, Culture & Society

Rogue PCR firms are ‘gaming the system’: Warning over rip-off test firms

What are the new rules on testing from today?

You must take a COVID-19 test before you travel to England from abroad.

Some people, including children aged 11 and under, are exempt from taking the test.

When to take your test

You must take the test in the 2 days before your service to England departs.

For example, if you travel directly to England on Friday, you could take a test any time on the Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. The test result must be available for boarding.

If your journey to England is a multi-leg journey, you must take the test in the 2 days before the start of the first leg.

Type of test

The test must meet performance standards of ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml.

This could include tests such as:

  • a nucleic acid test, including a PCR test
  • a LAMP test
  • an antigen test, such as an LFD (lateral flow device) test

You must check with your test provider that the test meets the standards. You may not be able to travel if it does not.

If you have recently had COVID

If you have recently recovered from COVID but are no longer infectious, you should use a lateral flow device (LFD) test. LFD tests have a lower sensitivity than PCR or LAMP tests, so they are less likely to return a positive result from a historic infection. The LFD test must meet the minimum performance standards as set out above.

Where to take your test

You will need to find a private test provider to take a test.

You can choose to take a test:

  • in the place where you start your journey
  • in another country on your way to England, if you are travelling through another country
  • Where possible, the government travel advice pages provide information about finding a testing provider.

Taking a test on your journey to England

If your journey to England is long, and will involve stopping in another country on the way, you should try to take a test in the country you’re travelling through. This is so you take the test in the 2 days before you board the final service to England.

For example, if you’re driving from Germany and you stop for a few days in Belgium, you should take a test in Belgium.

If your journey to England is a multi-leg journey, you can take the test in the 2 days before the start of the first leg. However, where possible, you should get a test within 2 days of your final departure point to England.

Check that you will be able to get a test

If you plan to take a test in a country on your way to England, you must make sure that this is possible before you set out. Some countries have entry restrictions in place, which mean you may not be able to get tested there.

If you do not have proof of a test because you planned to get tested on your journey, but you were not able to do so because you were not able to enter the country in which you planned to get tested, you will be allowed to board. But you may be fined £500 on arrival in England because you do not have a valid test result.

Taking your test in the UK before travel

If you are returning to the UK within 2 days, you can use the result of a COVID-19 test that you take in the UK before you travel. You must use a private test provider for the test and not an NHS test.

The service on which you will arrive back in the UK must set off for the UK within 2 days of when you took the test, or within 2 days of the start of the first leg of your journey for multi-leg journeys.

Positive test results

If your test result is positive, you must not travel. You must follow local rules and guidance for positive coronavirus cases.

If the result is inconclusive, you must take another test.

British nationals who need consular assistance should contact the nearest consulate, embassy or high commission.

 

The Government has been accused of failing to get a grip on greedy and unscrupulous testing companies ‘gaming the system’ to rip off holidaymakers as new testing rules began today and the quarantine hotel system failed families.

Downing Street has vowed to strike off anyone found to be exploiting travellers but firms are already cashing in and charging families of four up to £376 for arrival tests up until day 2.   

Ministers expressed concerns yesterday that  test cowboys were offering 30p tests via the Government’s official website. Although customers clicking through to those websites still face paying £80 for the cheapest test.   

From today, anyone travelling to the UK from a green list country – including the double or triple vaccinated – must take a PCR or antigen test in the 2 days before your service to England departs.

For example, if you travel directly to England on a Friday, you could take a test any time on the Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. 

The prime minister’s spokesman said it was unacceptable that PCR firms were taking advantage of passengers. He said: ‘There are many tests available, both PCR and [lateral flow], within the £20-50 price range. We will continue to monitor the actions that the companies are taking.

‘It is clearly unacceptable for any product testing company to take advantage of holidaymakers. The average price of a day two test is now under £45. We will strike companies off the list if they are found to be seeking to exploit the public when they need these tests.’

It came amid chaos in the UK’s quarantine hotel system where a lack of rooms means families are being forced to separate and stay up to 100 miles apart after arriving from South Africa.

One family of three – a married couple and their son, six, were split up because they were told they could not all stay in a double room together. That meant they have to pay for both rooms at £2,285 each with no £350 family discount. Father and son are now Milton Keynes while the mother is in Gatwick.

The child’s grandmother Janine Akers said: ‘They haven’t told their son yet and I don’t know what the stress is going to be when he’s told. The hotel would not let them book for the three of them to stay [together]. When they got the two room bookings confirmed they had no choice but to take them otherwise they may have been stranded over Christmas’.

She told the Times: ‘This is going to cost them around £6,000. They had to defer their flights for £250, find additional accommodation in South Africa which was £600, and then pay for the quarantine hotels.

‘Splitting families up and one parent having the full responsibility while quarantining is a big ask. They’ve had to do it because they don’t want to be stranded for Christmas. The government needs to urgently make more family rooms available for quarantine. They did not properly fund this scheme.’

Greedy firms are already taking advantage of new travel rules to advertise expensive PCR tests for as little as 30p – only to sting families with sky-high fees.

Revised rules mean all arrivals to the UK must take a PCR test within two days, and not just the cheaper lateral flow test as before. This is because PCR tests can identify variants such as Omicron.

Companies on the Government-approved list have been promoting the low prices in order to appear at the top of online searches. But once travellers click through to the website they can get caught out by ‘fees’ of £59 or more. Just yesterday firms were offering PCR tests for £15, which then came with a fee of £79. It could leave a family of four facing a bill of £376.

The issue has arisen because, although in theory travellers can get self-swab tests for just £15, there are very few available.

Experts have called on Health Secretary Sajid Javid and watchdogs the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to act.

Changes to the travel rules involving more testing for Britons returning home have been announced over the past ten days all with only a few days’ notice – leaving thousands of passengers at the mercy of testing firms. 

The Department of Health and Social Care has now removed several providers from the website, run by the UK Health Security Agency, after facing criticism for not doing enough to ensure the prices listed remain accurate.  

Francis Ingham, director of the Laboratory and Testing Industry Organisation, the trade body for Covid testing firms, said: ‘Cutting out the cowboys increases public confidence in testing and help us all get through Covid.’ 

Sajid Javid has swerved demands to compensate the travel industry, as he insisted that new restrictions were needed to control the spread of the Omicron variant.

The health secretary defended the introduction of pre-departure travel tests, which will come into force today, just days after ministers insisted they were not needed.

He said pre-departure testing ‘could have a greater role to play in identifying positive cases before travel’ because of new data suggesting Omicron could have a shorter window between infection and infectiousness.

Mr Javid said he ‘fully understood’ the impact on the travel sector, adding: ‘This hugely important part of the economy has been hit again and again.’ But he ducked repeated questions about whether the government would provide extra financial support for the industry, which is still in recovery from the repeated lockdowns of the last two years.

British holidaymakers queue for lateral flow tests at a shopping centre in Tenerife today before flying back to the UK

A family with two adults and one child hoping for a quarantine hotel space face waiting at least for a week until next Monday

A family with two adults and one child hoping for a quarantine hotel space face waiting at least for a week until next Monday

 

It comes as families stuck in red list nations trying to get home could have to wait until 2022 – with no availability at London Heathrow quarantine hotels for a group of two adults and two children for the rest of this month.

A family with two adults and one child face waiting at least for a week until next Monday – while single adults or couples will have to wait until this Wednesday, according to availability on the official bookings portal CTM.

Quarantine hotels cost £2,285 for ten days or 11 nights for one adult in one room, then £1,430 for an additional adult or child over 11, and £325 for a child aged 5 to 11. You do not have to pay for children under five. The Government is now trying to massively expand its quarantine hotel offering as families face spending hundreds of pounds more on hotels abroad in one of 11 red-listed countries while they wait for UK hotel space.

Arrivals at Heathrow are said to be being transported by bus to Milton Keynes and Luton, with concerns that the problem could become worse if the red list is expanded in the coming days after Nigeria was added this morning.

A source told the Daily Telegraph: ‘The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is desperately trying to find more hotel space. It is going to have to be massively expanded. That’s what they are very, very focused on in the coming days, especially with Nigeria having been added and the likelihood of others to follow.’ 

The DHSC told MailOnline it had doubled the number of quarantine hotel rooms available from today and was ‘rapidly expanding’ capacity, while urging passengers not to travel from a red list country without a booking. 

Meanwhile ministers are facing a huge backlash over the reintroduction of pre-departure Covid travel tests amid warnings that more than a million people could be stranded abroad just three weeks before Christmas.

Responding to testing firms charging very low prices to lure in customers, a DHSC spokesman told MailOnline: ‘We’ve been clear that it is unacceptable for any private testing company to take advantage of holidaymakers. 

Passengers arrive at London Heathrow Airport last Tuesday as more travel restrictions are brought in by the Government

Passengers arrive at London Heathrow Airport last Tuesday as more travel restrictions are brought in by the Government

The Government website of approved travel testing firms, which is run by the UK Health Security Agency which is part of the Department of Health and Social Care, has faced criticism for not being properly monitored to ensure prices remain accurate

The Government website of approved travel testing firms, which is run by the UK Health Security Agency which is part of the Department of Health and Social Care, has faced criticism for not being properly monitored to ensure prices remain accurate

‘The government has taken action to drive down the cost of tests for international travel, with the average price of a Day 2 test now under £45 with many available for £20. We will continue to work with UKHSA to monitor issues raised by the public and take rapid action if appropriate, including striking companies from the list.’

Companies can be taken off the Government-approved list if they are found to be non-compliant with the minimum standards, to not be meeting their accreditation deadlines where applicable or have been raised as a possible public safeguarding risk to the DHSC. 

Q&A: What are the new travel rules for Britons?

What are the new travel rules?

From 4am tomorrow, everyone over 12 travelling to the UK will need to have taken a pre-departure test – either lateral flow or PCR – to prove they don’t have Covid-19. This test is mandatory, including for those who are vaccinated.

What if I test positive overseas?

Britons are advised to contact the British embassy or consulate for advice. You will have to abide by the quarantine rules that apply in that country. This will involve a period of quarantine in a government-approved hotel or facility at your expense, which could run to several hundred pounds. You will need to fund any medical treatment required. You can return home after testing negative, but will probably need to pay for a new flight.

What happens after I arrive home?

Returning travellers must self-isolate at home until they take a day two test. This must be a PCR test, which is booked before you travel and bought privately from a government-approved provider. You must self-isolate until you get a negative result.

What about travel insurance?

Some policies, such as those offered by the Post Office, include coronavirus cover. This will include trip cancellation and curtailment cover; overseas medical and repatriation costs.

What if I want to cancel a foreign trip?

You don’t have a legal right to a refund. But most tour operators and airlines will give you a voucher to re-book at a later date.

What countries are on the red list now?

Ten southern African countries were added to the UK’s travel red list because of Omicron – South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia. Nigeria was added from 4am today.

What are the travel rules for red list countries?

You should not travel to red list countries for holidays. People returning to the UK from a red list country must take a pre-departure test and undergo a hotel quarantine for ten days, with a test at day two or eight. Quarantine currently costs £2,285 for a single adult and £1,430 for a second adult.

What happens next?

These are temporary measures introduced to prevent further Omicron cases from entering the UK. They will be examined at the three-week review point on December 20.

It operates a two-strike process where providers failing to provide an adequate service are removed from the Government list. Private providers may be reinstated to the list once they have undertaken corrective action and provided the DHSC with evidence to show this. 

And on the hotel room capacity issues, the DHSC told MailOnline: ‘We are rapidly expanding our hotel capacity following our immediate and precautionary action against the omicron variant. We have doubled the number of hotel rooms available from Monday and will continue to increase availability on a daily basis.’

Meanwhile the travel sector has rounded on the Government after it performed a dramatic U-turn to require travellers to be tested before they return to Britain in a move that threatens to wreck the festive plans of millions of families.

Tory MPs said the rule change will be a hammer blow to the airline industry, and a leading scientific adviser to the Government said the clampdown would make no ‘material difference’ to the spread of the Omicron variant.

The move, which comes into force tomorrow, means travellers will have to provide a negative test result before they can board a flight home. Those who test positive will have to quarantine abroad at their own expense.

A Cabinet source said some officials and scientists had wanted to go even further by insisting that travellers quarantine at home for up to eight days on their return.

‘If it had been up to the health ‘Blob’, this would have been even more disruptive,’ the source said.

Industry sources predicted more than a million Britons abroad will be scrambling to get a test in order to avoid being stranded.

Travel expert Paul Charles said: ‘People who are overseas are finding it difficult to obtain tests. It’s a weekend, lots of places are closed and these people had no reason to think about the need to get a test to come home. People will effectively be stranded because they can’t get the tests that are now required.’

He added: ‘Tens of thousands of travel industry jobs are threatened. It is beyond belief that no support measures have been announced. That just indicates how knee-jerk these policies are.’

The Government U-turn came after a week in which ministers repeatedly insisted pre-departure tests would not be needed. In a podcast interview recorded on Wednesday and posted on Friday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said ministers did not want to ‘kill off the travel sector again’.

On Thursday, science minister George Freeman said further travel tests would put the economy ‘on its knees’.

But a source said chief medical officer Chris Whitty had made a powerful case to ministers on Saturday, citing a flight from South Africa to the Netherlands on which 11 passengers had Omicron.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab insisted that the pre-departure tests were ‘not prohibitive’, but acknowledged it would make only a ‘marginal difference’ to the spread of the new variant.

Professor Mark Woolhouse, who advises the Government’s Sage committee, said it was too late for the measure to slow the spread of the virus. ‘I think that may be a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted,’ he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

‘If Omicron is here in the UK, and it certainly is, if there’s community transmission in the UK, and it certainly looks that way, then it’s that community transmission that will drive a next wave. It’s too late to make a material difference to the course of the Omicron wave, if we’re going to have one.’

The UK Health Security Agency said a further 86 cases of Omicron had been confirmed in the UK on Sunday, bringing the total to 246.

What are the 11 countries on Britain’s red list?

Angola

Botswana

Eswatini

Lesotho

Malawi

Mozambique 

Namibia

Nigeria

South Africa

Zambia

Zimbabwe

Tory MP Henry Smith, chairman of the Future of Aviation group of MPs, said the new testing regime was ‘a massive blow that will hit our economy, jobs and place these vital industries into peril just as they were looking to recover’.

He added: ‘That these restrictions have come with no financial or employment support is totally unacceptable and the Government must announce a full package of measures in the coming days and control the costs of testing.

‘Above all they need to justify why these restrictions are needed and what the roadmap is for their removal as soon as possible.’

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the industry body Airlines UK, said the rapidly changing measures meant planning was becoming impossible.

‘It is premature to hit millions of passengers and industry before we see the full data. We don’t have the clinical evidence,’ he said.

The Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee said pre-departure tests were a ‘major deterrent to travel’.

Chairman of the Association of British Travel Agents, Alistair Rowland, said a fragile recovery in the industry has been shattered.

‘Since last weekend, demand has dropped by more than 50 per cent in terms of booking holidays for future seasons. There is no consumer confidence,’ he said.

Which? Travel editor, Rory Boland, said: ‘Constantly changing rules at the last minute leaves passengers footing the bill. In some destinations, it will be difficult for people to secure tests at such short notice.

‘For those who do test positive abroad, they should first and foremost follow local health guidelines. This will likely require quarantining in your existing hotel or at government accommodation.

‘In some countries, travellers will have to pay for quarantine, and some travel insurance providers can help with this. Travellers should also check the flexible booking policy of their airline to rearrange flights.’

Nigeria was added to the travel red list after 21 cases of the Omicron variant in England were linked to travel from the west African nation. 

From 4am today, only British and Irish nationals and residents travelling from Nigeria will be allowed into the UK, and they will be required to isolate in a government-managed quarantine hotel. 

The Government announced the move as part of its approach to slowing the spread of the Omicron variant.

But the Nigerian High Commissioner to London, Sarafa Tunji Isola, said he agrees with UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, who criticised measures imposed by various countries against African nations as ‘travel apartheid’.

Asked about restrictions imposed by the UK, Mr Isola told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The reaction in Nigeria is that of travel apartheid. Because Nigeria is actually aligned with the position of the UN secretary-general that the travel ban is apartheid, in the sense that we’re not dealing with an endemic situation, we are dealing with a pandemic situation and what is expected is a global approach, not selective.’

He added: ‘(Omicron) is classified as a mild variant – no hospitalisation, no death. So the issue is quite different from the Delta variant. I mean, the position has to be taken based on scientific and empirical evidence. It is not a kind of panicky situation.’

Policing minister Kit Malthouse said while he understands the difficulties caused by such measures, the phrase ‘travel apartheid’ is ‘very unfortunate language’.

He told Today: ‘It’s very unfortunate language to use.

‘We understand the difficulties that’s created by these travel restrictions, but we’re trying to buy a little bit of time so that our scientists at Porton Down can work on the virus and assess how difficult it’s going to be for us to cope with as a country.’

Announcing the measure on Saturday, the Government said the vast majority of cases in the UK have clear links to overseas travel from South Africa and Nigeria.

At that stage officials said that, over the previous week, 21 Omicron cases reported in England originated from Nigeria.

Meanwhile, one of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine inventors has warned another pandemic will threaten human lives and could be ‘more contagious’ and ‘more lethal’.

Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, delivering the 44th prestigious Richard Dimbleby Lecture, said the scientific advances made in research against fighting deadly viruses ‘must not be lost’.

Dame Sarah said: ‘This will not be the last time a virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods. The truth is, the next one could be worse. It could be more contagious, or more lethal, or both.’

She went on to say: ‘We cannot allow a situation where we have gone through all we have gone through, and then find that the enormous economic losses we have sustained mean that there is still no funding for pandemic preparedness.

‘The advances we have made, and the knowledge we have gained, must not be lost.’

The Oxford professor is credited with saving millions of lives through her role in designing the coronavirus vaccine.

She has been making and testing vaccines for more than 10 years, mainly using antigens from malaria and influenza, and initiated the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine project in early 2020 when Covid first emerged in China.

The vaccine developed by her team is used in more than 170 countries around the world.

The vaccinologist received a damehood earlier this year for services to science and public health in Covid vaccine development.

Speaking about the Omicron variant, Dame Sarah added: ‘The spike protein of this variant contains mutations already known to increase transmissibility of the virus.

‘But there are additional changes that may mean antibodies induced by the vaccines, or by infection with other variants, may be less effective at preventing infection with Omicron.

‘Until we know more, we should be cautious, and take steps to slow down the spread of this new variant.

‘But as we have seen before, reduced protection against infection and mild disease does not necessarily mean reduced protection against severe disease and death.’

Her warning came as it was reported that nearly two-in-three housebound people – including many at greatest risk from the virus – are yet to receive their booster jabs.

The Daily Telegraph reported that an unpublished Whitehall analysis seen by the paper found that only 170,000 housebound people had received their dose of the vaccine by the end of last week out an estimated cohort of 470,000.

In contrast, more than 60 per cent of the over 50s have received their booster.

It comes amid warnings that GPs who delivered the first and second jabs to the housebound are now dropping out as they do not have the time or staff.

In response, a NHS spokesman said: ‘Local NHS and GP teams are contacting their eligible housebound patients, and we are working closely with St John Ambulance to give local areas additional support.

‘We are also providing additional funding to help local teams secure additional staff so that all eligible housebound patients are offered a booster as quickly and safely as possible.’

The Richard Dimbleby lecture, named in honour of the late broadcaster, features influential speakers from academia, arts and business and the royal family. It will be broadcast on BBC One and iPlayer at 10.35pm tonight.

Meanwhile a legal challenge which argues coronavirus hotel quarantine is a ‘fundamental breach of human rights’ has been mounted.

People entering the UK from 10 countries in southern Africa must currently spend 10 full days in a quarantine hotel, at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.

Today, Owen Hancock, 35, and Emily Mennie, 30, were due to enter hotel quarantine on their return from a break in South Africa. They say they were left stranded when the country was added to the UK’s red list due to concerns about the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The couple, from Tooting, South London, were visiting Ms Mennie’s family for the first time since the start of the pandemic when their travel plans were thrown into chaos. When they finally managed to book their journey home, they were told hotel quarantine was full and they would have to reschedule their flights and PCR tests.

They say this added to their financial woes and are now facing a £4,000 credit card bill on their return. 

The couple have set up an online petition, which has attracted more than 40,000 signatures, calling on the Government to fund hotel quarantine costs for travellers caught in the same situation when new measures are imposed at short notice.

UK couple facing £4k hotel quarantine on return from South Africa launch legal action against the Government because policy was introduced AFTER they left Britain 

A legal challenge that argues coronavirus hotel quarantine is a ‘fundamental breach of human rights’ has been mounted this week.

People entering the UK from 10 countries in southern Africa must currently spend 10 full days in a quarantine hotel, at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.

On Monday, Owen Hancock, 35, and Emily Mennie, 30, were due to enter hotel quarantine on their return from a break in South Africa. 

They say they were left stranded when the country was added to the UK’s red list due to concerns about the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Owen Hancock, 35, and Emily Mennie, 30, from Tooting, London, were 'frustrated' when flights were banned and Heathrow's quarantine hotel was fully booked

Owen Hancock, 35, and Emily Mennie, 30, from Tooting, London, were ‘frustrated’ when flights were banned and Heathrow’s quarantine hotel was fully booked

Mr Hancock and Mrs Mennie, who was born in South Africa, were visiting her family for the first time since Covid struck nearly two years ago

 Mr Hancock and Mrs Mennie, who was born in South Africa, were visiting her family for the first time since Covid struck nearly two years ago

The couple, from Tooting, London, were visiting Ms Mennie’s family for the first time since the start of the pandemic when their travel plans were thrown into chaos.

When they finally managed to book their journey home, they were told hotel quarantine was full and they would have to reschedule their flights and PCR tests.

They say this added to their financial woes and are now facing a £4,000 credit card bill on their return.

Alex and Kate Freed described the hotel conditions as 'awful'

Alex and Kate Freed described the hotel conditions as ‘awful’

The couple have set up an online petition, which has attracted more than 40,000 signatures, calling on the Government to fund hotel quarantine costs for travellers caught in the same situation when new measures are imposed at short notice.

Ms Mennie said: ‘This ridiculous and unjustifiable policy was re-introduced with no prior warning, no ability for us to get home, and then to add insult to injury we were unable to get a room.

‘The Government’s handling of this has been shambolic and that’s evident from the number of people who have signed our petition and call on the Prime Minister to rethink.’

Mr Hancock said: ‘It is utterly unfair and unreasonable that we should have to pay for mandatory hotel quarantine, which was not the Government policy when we left the UK.’

The couple say they have complied with all guidance and every restriction since the pandemic began.

They are backing a case brought by law firm PGMBM who on Thursday will seek permission at the High Court for a judicial review of the Government’s mandatory hotel quarantine policy.

The firm will present evidence before a judge at a two-hour hearing to decided whether a review will be granted.

Tom Goodhead, managing partner at PGMBM, said: ‘We wholeheartedly appreciate the seriousness of the Omicron variant, as well as the efforts of governments and healthcare workers to tackle it.

‘This does not, however, mean that policies which constitute extraordinary violations of traditional liberties and human rights can escape the careful judicial examination they deserve.

‘Hotel quarantine is a fundamental breach of people’s human rights. Law-abiding citizens who have been double vaccinated and tested negative should be free from hotel quarantine. The idea that they need to pay for the privilege of their own imprisonment is outrageous.

‘It is for this reason that we are taking the UK government to court. If we are successful, people like Owen and Emily could eventually be entitled to compensation.’

The couple slammed the food provisions (pictured) and said the hotel quarantine experience overall was 'awful'

The couple slammed the food provisions (pictured) and said the hotel quarantine experience overall was ‘awful’

A Government spokesperson said: ‘We are determined to protect our country and the progress we have made thanks to the vaccine rollout.

‘We make no apology for taking decisive action at the border and introducing hotel quarantine. Every essential check has strengthened our defences against the risk of new coronavirus variants such as Omicron.’

Meanwhile a couple who have been forced to use the quarantine scheme after spending their honeymoon in South Africa have described their experience as ‘awful’.

Kate and Alex Freed, 29 and 30 years old respectively, from London, rescheduled their wedding four times as a result of coronavirus restrictions.

'Half the time it's cold, half the time it's just inedible,' Alex said of the meals the pair were given

‘Half the time it’s cold, half the time it’s just inedible,’ Alex said of the meals the pair were given

After getting married in September, they booked their honeymoon to South Africa.

They spoke exclusively to the PA news agency on the third day of their 10-day quarantine period.

‘We’d been planning the South Africa trip for ages… we didn’t book it until the green list changed and the foreign travel advice was that it was safe to go to’, Kate explained.

‘To be charged for coming back to your country when the Government’s told you it’s safe to go, I think is just wrong’, Alex added.

The couple flew back from South Africa on December 2, after having their original flight home cancelled due to the travel ban.

They said it took almost six hours to get from the plane at Heathrow to their hotel, the Holiday Inn Express at Heathrow Terminal 4, including waiting in a bus from the terminal to the hotel.

‘They put us onto a bus for the 30-second journey, but we were on the bus for three hours’, Alex explained.

‘We were on a bus full of people, (with) no ventilation.

‘It was the most unorganised mess ever. People were crying. It just seemed like something from a film, it was a bit mad,’ he added.

After arriving at the hotel itself, the pair said they had food and other supplies delivered by their family, because the hotel food is ‘inedible’.

‘You’re paying serious money and… it’s not substantial meals. Half the time it’s cold, half the time it’s just inedible’, Alex said.

Day to day, guests can request to go outside for a walk. A security guard accompanies them downstairs, and they are allowed 20 minutes in the hotel car park before being told they have to go back inside, the pair said.

Travellers returning from red list countries originally faced a cost of £1,750 to quarantine in a hotel when the scheme was first announced in February.

The price has now risen to £2,285 for the 11-night stay.

‘I’d rather pay for security outside my flat and they can watch me not leave’, Kate said.

‘I don’t disagree with quarantine if that’s what the Government want to do… It’s just the cost that’s come with it,’ she added.

‘The way it is run is awful. I just feel something needs to be done about it,’ Alex said.

PA has contacted Holiday Inn Express for comment.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk