Father's plea after 10-year-old son told to hotel quarantine

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image copyrightAntonio Caraballo
image captionFor Antonio Caraballo and his son Sami, home is a hotel room for 10 days

A father wants the Scottish government to reconsider its Covid quarantine rules after his son was told he had to isolate in a hotel for 10 days.

Antonio Caraballo's 10-year-old son Sami, who lives with his mother in Finland, flew to Edinburgh on Saturday to see his father.

Mr Caraballo expected Sami to self-isolate at the family home and filled out pre-flight paperwork accordingly.

But on arrival, border officials insisted he had to isolate in a hotel.

Because he is a child, Mr Caraballo has had to quarantine with him, at a total cost of more than £2,400.

The Scottish government said children under 11 were exempt from having to be tested for Covid-19 on arrival to Scotland, but not from having to stay in a quarantine hotel.

The rule means that Sami will spend 10 days of his 14-day visit in a hotel room, and Mr Caraballo, who is a key worker at an oil and gas firm, has to do his work from there.

Mr Caraballo told BBC Scotland: "Sami lives in Finland with his mother and usually we see a lot of each other, but because of the pandemic, he has not been here since last summer. We didn't see him at Christmas.

"We had to balance the risks of my son travelling from a country with a low number of cases to a country with a high number of cases.

"But we brought him for his own wellbeing. Now I am so frustrated for him."

image copyrightAntonio Caraballo
image captionSami is spending the majority of his visit in hotel quarantine

Sami's parents had organised an extra week off school to add to his week-long half term break known as the "ski holiday" in Finland. The school were happy to let him spend time with his family.

Mr Caraballo arrived at the airport to collect his son on Saturday but instead of taking him home to isolate there, ended the day in a quarantine hotel.

"I got a call from the border agent," he said. "He said he didn't need a Covid test but he had to go to the hotel. They said because my child is underage an adult would have to go with him. We had to try to book the quarantine hotel online and then my wife and Sami's sister Amelia, who is three, only saw him for five seconds as the two of us were escorted away."

image copyrightDebbie Jackson
image captionMr Caraballo was given a scrap of paper with a number on it to appeal his case by hotel staff, but the number did not exist

Mr Caraballo has tried to appeal against the decision and was given a helpline to call by the hotel staff. Unfortunately this turned out to be an invalid number.

He is finding it difficult to speak to anyone who can help.

"The most frustrating thing is that there doesn't seem to be anyone who is accountable," he said. "There is no-one to call, no-one to speak to at the hotel."

Coronavirus restrictions on travel and visiting other households in Scotland carry an exemption for shared parenting. People are allowed "to travel to participate in or facilitate shared parenting or between two parts of an extended household".

Mr Caraballo feels that when a child is visiting a parent, there should be an exemption, or the ability to self-isolate at home.

He said: "We thought we were doing the right thing flying him into Edinburgh. If we had him arrive in another part of the UK there would have been a loophole."

Different rules set by the UK and Scottish governments mean that arrivals to airports in England who travel on to Scotland, do not have to quarantine in a hotel unless they arrive from a country on the red list.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionThe Doubletree Edinburgh Airport is where Mr Caraballo and his son have to quarantine for 10 days

For the moment all plans are on hold and Sami will have just three days with his family after the hotel stay.

A family "late Christmas dinner" has been postponed.

Mr Caraballo said Sami was bored and frustrated but is resilient.

He added: "It's just a shame. The whole point of bringing him here was to cheer him up."

A Scottish government spokesperson said: "We understand how difficult this is for families with children, but to manage the risk of importing new variants and to give vaccine deployment the best chance of bringing us closer to normality these limits on international travel are necessary.

"The clinical advice is clear that a comprehensive system of managed quarantine is essential to minimise the impact of new Covid-19 variants. This means children must enter managed isolation regardless of whether they are accompanied or unaccompanied. We must restrict how many exemptions are in place otherwise the policy will not be effective."

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