I should say first of all that the proposal to use the Holiday Inn in Kenilworth as a quarantine hotel for those returning from ‘red list’ countries was not discussed with me before it was agreed and I have raised with Ministers my dissatisfaction with the lack of notice and consultation. I have also now spoken to the Department of Health and Social Care and to the owner and management of the hotel about how this process will be managed and I will continue to do so as quarantine guests continue to stay there.
The hotel will accommodate only quarantine guests under this contract, who will be UK citizens or residents returning home. Without the provision of hotel accommodation for them they would be unable to do so under current COVID-19 restrictions. I have been given a number of important assurances about the quarantine process. Guests are not permitted to leave the hotel grounds and will spend the vast majority of their stay in their rooms. Their contact with hotel staff will be minimal. In addition to the existing hotel staff, a significant number of additional security personnel will be on-site at all times to ensure rules are followed. Those staying at the hotel will have arrived in the UK at Birmingham International Airport and will be transferred by coach directly to the hotel. Guests and staff will be tested regularly and any guest testing positive during their stay will need to serve an additional period of quarantine.
Due to the increase in the number of countries on the ‘red list’, there are now in excess of 16,000 people in quarantine hotels each night. The Government consequently needs to find additional hotels to accommodate them, beyond the airport hotels which have largely been used up to now. As you might imagine, the period of COVID restrictions has been a very difficult time for the Holiday Inn and it has been made clear to me that without the additional income this contract offers, the hotel may well not survive. I do not think we can ignore the significance of this risk. As the economy recovers, the return of corporate guests and tourists to the hotel will deliver benefit to a variety of businesses in the town, predominantly shops, restaurants and cafes who have themselves seen substantial reductions in income due to COVID-19. This large and very central hotel is a significant local asset to the town and its closure would present a number of problems. As I said, we will all want to be confident that the safeguards I have described are operating effectively, but, given all the circumstances, I can understand why the owners and managers of the hotel have decided to undertake this contract.