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Covid: Rule change allows parents to stay in hotels to see children

By Kate Whannel
BBC News

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image copyrightTom De Castella
image captionTom De Castella, who campaigned for the change, says repeatedly driving between London to Norfolk to visit his daughter was "completely exhausting"

The government has changed coronavirus rules, allowing parents to stay in hotels so they can visit their child if they do not live with them.

Previously parents could visit children during lockdown, but restrictions prevented them from staying overnight.

The change, which came into force on Boxing Day, applies throughout lockdown in England and for all future tiers.

It follows a campaign by ex-BBC journalist Tom De Castella, who described the new rule as "great news".

He said "the worst aspect" of the pandemic for him had been "the way it has affected my ability to see my daughter".

Mr De Castella added: "She's three-years-old and lives in north Norfolk with her mum. I live in south London [and] the drive is about three and a half hours each way.

"It's a long day. To do it two days running is a killer."

In November, he tried to book into a hotel in Norwich to allow him to see his daughter over successive days, only to be told it was not allowed.

"Going as a separated parent was deemed to be a 'leisure' purpose by the hotel [and] only keyworkers could stay," the freelance journalist added.

"I checked the rules, there was nothing to treat me as an exemption to the lockdown rules. It had a massive bearing on seeing my daughter."

'Building a bond'

Mr De Castella said it was "absurd" that the rules treated seeing his daughter as a leisure activity.

"This is about building a bond with your child, it's crucial to their development," he added.

"It was massively frustrating for me. For my job I was allowed to go up there and stay in a hotel. But to stay there to spend time with my daughter after months apart was effectively banned."

But he welcomed the change in rules, saying: "It's great news that at least this anomaly has now been corrected."

Last year, following initial confusion, the government confirmed that children of parents who were separated would be able to move between households while coronavirus restrictions were in place.

Under the current restrictions, hotels and hostels are expected to close except for specific circumstances.

Exemptions include where venues act as someone's main residence, where the customer cannot return home, when providing accommodation to the homeless, or where someone needs accommodation for work purposes.

According to government guidance, hotel restaurants and bars should remain closed, but ordering food and drink via room service is still permitted.

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