Covid: Family reunited after hotel quarantine 'error'

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image copyrightPA Media
image captionKiernan Wong is reunited with her mother after 16 months apart

An eight-year-old girl and her father, wrongly quarantined under Scotland's new hotel isolation rules, have been reunited with the girl's mother after just one day in the UK.

Chun Wong and his daughter Kiernan got the hugs they were desperate for with his wife Danielle on Tuesday after immigration delays kept them apart for 16 months.

They were allowed to leave their hotel after an error was discovered.

They will now isolate at home in Fife.

Since Monday, all passengers arriving in Scotland on international flights have to enter "managed isolation".

However, this does not apply to those coming from within the Common Travel Area, including the UK and Ireland.

Mr Wong and Kiernan had arrived in Edinburgh from the US via Dublin.

They had gone straight to a hotel at Edinburgh airport, following advice they had been given.

Later that night they were told that as they had got a connecting flight from Ireland, they could instead isolate at home.

The family was finally reunited on Tuesday afternoon.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionChun Wong and his wife Danielle have been apart for more than a year

Mrs Wong told BBC Scotland about the moment she got to hug Kiernan for the first time in more than a year.

She said: "I have never had that level of anxiety on my life. My legs were shaking so much and when she came out of the hotel she was scared to run to me. It was lovely and I didn't want to let her go."

Mr Wong added: "I just told her to run to mummy. What a reunion to remember."

He said an official from the airport had come to see him in the hotel on Monday night.

"He said that it was an error on their part that since we came into the country through Dublin we didn't need to quarantine," he said.

"They were very apologetic. They said they screwed up, which I understand. It was day one and what process is perfect on day one?"

The new arrivals will still carry out self-testing on the second and eighth day, in line with the isolation rules.

image copyrightDanielle Wong
image captionChun and Kiernan Wong are now quarantining at home after arriving from the US via Dublin

Travellers who are required to self-isolate in hotels have to pay £1,750 each, plus an extra fee for additional isolating guests. In Mr Wong's case that was a further £325 for Kiernan.

The Scottish government said it was investigating why he was "wrongly advised" at the airport.

But Mrs Wong said she had found it difficult to get the right information ahead of her family's arrival.

She said: "We believed because they came from the US and the Scottish rule says that is international travel regardless of whether it is a red list country or not, they have to quarantine."

'We were willing and happy to do it'

She was advised to book a quarantine hotel but again found problems with the England-based system. She said that online forms had no prompts for Scotland.

She added: "It is confusing. I believe based on the regulations they should be at the hotel. I don't disagree with the stance Scotland is taking.

"We were willing and happy to do it. It's an appropriate measure but it needs to be made simpler for people coming here.

"I didn't expect this. But I am thankful because I get to see my daughter. I was frantically running to the shops this morning to stock up on food."

image copyrightDanielle Wong
image captionDanielle Wong has not seen her daughter for 16 months. Photo taken when the family were previously together

Mr Wong and Kiernan have moved to Scotland to be with Mrs Wong who has been in the country since November 2019. A dual UK/US citizen, she is a front-line NHS worker, involved in addiction services.

The family have been separated for 16 months, after the pandemic hit the immigration system.

On Monday Mr Wong said it would be "heartbreaking" to be apart for another 10 days if they had to isolate in a hotel.

He said his daughter was "ecstatic, overjoyed and a little nervous" as it had been more than a year since she had seen her mum.

"The last time she saw her she was seven and in April she'll be nine. Crazy."

On Tuesday Kiernan had two Christmases' worth of presents waiting for her at her new home.

image copyrightDanielle Wong
image captionThe family, in an earlier photograph, are now reunited

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We are looking into the circumstances that led to Mr Wong being wrongly advised at the airport that he needed to book a managed isolation package. This is a very new system, being implemented at pace, and some initial challenges are to be expected.

"We are following up with the travel management company to ensure a full refund is provided to Mr Wong."

An Edinburgh Airport spokesman wished the Wong family well as they settled into their new life in Scotland.

However, he insisted that "inaccurate advice" had come from the government which was evidence of the "confusion" the policy had created.

The spokesman added: "It is a clear example of the loophole that our governments have created in action and they should work together to close it before this happens again."

How is Scotland's approach different?

All those arriving into Scotland directly from outside the Common Travel Area must pay to isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel.

But Scotland's first minister has raised concerns about the risk of people spreading new Covid variants if they arrive at airports and ferry terminals elsewhere, then travel to Scotland on public transport.

For example, in England only travellers from 33 "red list" countries must enter managed quarantine.

image copyrightPA Media

UK minister Nadhim Zahawi claimed on Tuesday that the quarantine rollout had "gone smoothly" in England.

Mr Zahawi told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "As for day one, it's gone reasonably well, we can always do better and, of course, work with Scotland."

He added: "Our discussions with the Scottish government will lead to a better operating system. I think it would be unwise to close the border, we are one United Kingdom."

What does the Scottish government rules say?

The guidelines for international travel are published on the Scottish government website.

A section of it says:

"You must also book and pay for managed isolation if you travel to Scotland from the Republic of Ireland, and have been in an acute risk country (a "red list" country) in the 10 days before your arrival.

"If you arrive in Scotland from within the Common Travel Area, but have been in a country not on the acute risk list in the 10 days before your arrival, you must self-isolate.

"There are some limited exemptions from isolation. You may still be required to self-isolate when you are not doing the essential activity the exemption allows."

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