Couple facing £3,700 quarantine bill to get home after being stranded in South Africa

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Owen Hancock, 35, and Emily Mennie, 30, who live in Tooting, South London were visiting family after the pandemic prevented them from seeing family and loved ones for two years

Emily Mennie and Owen Hancock
Emily Mennie and Owen Hancock

A couple have been left stranded in South Africa after the government announced the country would be placed on the red list because of the Omicron mutation.

They are now calling for change after being landed with a bill for nearly £4,000 for hotel quarantine on their return home.

Owen Hancock, 35, and Emily Mennie, 30, who live in Tooting, South London were visiting family after the pandemic broke out preventing them from seeing family and loved ones for two years.

When the couple travelled to South Africa on November 18 it did not cross their minds that they would be put in a situation in which they may not be able to return to their home in the capital.

Emily, who was born in South Africa, told MyLondon : “We will be forced to quarantine when we return for 10 days. We are happy to quarantine, we understand that we need to do our bit to stop the pandemic.

They have launched a petition calling for cheaper hotel quarantine
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Image:

Emily Mennie and Owen Hancock)

“Our issue is that we weren’t given an option to get back without the cost of the hotel and therefore we think the Government should pay because we didn’t have a choice to return as flights were banned to the UK.”

When the Omicron strain was discovered in South Africa on November 25 the UK banned direct flights until a plan could be put in place for travellers to safely return home.

While there was a small window available to fly to another country and then onto the UK to avoid quarantine Owen and Emily felt this went against normal advice given during the pandemic.

“We could have taken the option to go via a European country but we have tried to stick to the rules as close as possible and we didn’t think that was the right thing to do,” Emily said.

The couple, who have been together for four years, are booked to return to the UK on Saturday but face the unenviable task of having to quarantine in a hotel room for ten days, costing over £1,800 per person.

“For us [the hotel quarantine bill] it’s a huge cost. I mean who just has that kind of money sitting around? So we are going to have to put it on credit cards and work to pay that back,” Emily said.

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“We’ve just bought a new house, so we will be under financial stress we didn’t plan for.”

Both Emily and Owen’s bosses have been very understanding and because they work in digital marketing they are able to perform their jobs remotely.

The couple plan to read lots during quarantine and play cryptic crosswords to help pass the time. They have also started a petition on Change.Org to ‘cut the crazy cost of UK hotel quarantine’.

Emily said: “We are hoping that we may be able to get some of our stuff brought to us at the hotel just so we have stuff we need.

Owen added: “But there is so much uncertainly about how it actually will work in the quarantine hotel.”

The couple are trying to remain upbeat despite the impending cost of quarantine.

“We understand we have to pay the quarantine bill but we do think its unfair and feel disappointed,” Emily said.

“We just wish there was a window earlier to get home and quarantine at home.”

On Thursday Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that a temporary flight ban would be in place over the weekend from South Africa.

He announced: “Public safety is our priority. We’re taking this precautionary action to protect the progress we’ve made beating the virus across the country and as ever, we’ll continue to keep our measures under review.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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