An Aberdeenshire restaurant owner who gave free food to NHS staff and pensioners at the start of the pandemic has raised concerns about a major hotel chain cutting corners to cash in on international travellers having to quarantine.
Abdul Hamid, known as Raj, is head chef and owner of the Carron to Mumbai restaurant in Stonehaven.
Mr Hamid, 46, said he recently had “no choice” but to go to Bangladesh and see his very ill 93-year-old father, but had to hastily return home after news broke that international flights in and out of the country would be tightly restricted.
Since April 14, he has been staying in quarantine at the Holiday Inn at Heathrow Bath Road, a stay which is costing him £1,750 as a result of the current travel rules.
But Mr Hamid said the service has not been up to standard, and said the “awful, disgusting and cold” food made him question whether Holiday Inn is trying to spend as little as possible on guests.
For breakfast yesterday, Mr Hamid was given a cardboard box containing a small cup of beans, some mushrooms, half a tomato, an egg, and a single sausage.
Today he was given milk and a single piece of Weetabix, but had to ask for a bowl so he could eat it.
He said: “I’m coming from Bangladesh, and my hometown is Stonehaven.
“For the past four years, I’ve not been able to get back to Bangladesh, but my father has been very ill for a long time, and he’s 93 years old now, so I had to go and see him.
“There was no choice because of his age and illness, anything can happen at any time.
“The news was that international flights coming in and out were being fully locked down, so I made the decision to fly early and landed in the UK on April 14.”
Mr Hamid says he believes the Holiday Inn hotel should be providing a better service for the £1,750 cost.
He added: “I don’t mind hotel quarantine, but here you’re being treated like a custodial prisoner.
“The food is awful, disgusting and cold, and the menu is appalling.
“All it came with is some beans, cold mushrooms, a tomato and a sausage for the hot breakfast.
“Today’s breakfast was some milk and one piece of Weetabix, but with no bowl.
He added: “People are eating it, but they have no choice. If they were staying in Her Majesty’s Prison, they would be getting more luxury.
“I just want people to get a better treatment.”
A spokeswoman for Intercontinental Hotels Group, which incorporates the Holiday Inn brand, would not comment “on individual bookings due to guest confidentiality”, and said the matter of quarantine and hotel selection is a matter for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSCP).
The DHSCP website explains that the cost of the hotel stay also covers transport, security and testing.
Guidance online states: “You will need to agree to book and pay for a quarantine package before you complete your passenger locator form and board your return journey to the UK.
“The package includes the costs of transport from the port of arrival to the designated hotel, food, accommodation, security, other essential services and testing.”
A government spokesman said: “Our top priority is protecting the public and the robust border regime we have in place is helping to minimise the numbers of new variants being imported into the UK.
“We issued guidance to all hotels regarding Ramadan. For those who are fasting, halal meals are available at dawn and dusk or during the night. The hotel room provided includes facilities to wash and space to make prayer.
“We continue to make sure everyone gets the support they need while quarantining. All hotels providing managed quarantine facilities are able to accommodate the vast majority of people’s requirements.”