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Heathrow Is Not a Prison Quarantine Camp

Rebecca Bowen Rebecca Bowen
23rd June 2021
Heathrow Is Not a Prison Quarantine Camp
Conditions in a hotel are extremely different from a prison (Getty Images).

The Claim

Travelers from high-risk countries that are “red-listed” are being quarantined at Heathrow Airport under prison-like conditions.

Emerging story

In the middle of June, a video of a quarantine area at Heathrow airport began circulating. The video shows people walking around a large, fenced-in area. The person filming stops a man on the other side of the fence and asks him, “Is this your time out?” The man’s response is inaudible, and soon a security guard appears to interrupt the conversation. The caption on the video reads, “Prison quarantine camp at Heathrow.”

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Misbar’s Analysis

The Heathrow quarantine area in question is not visually appealing, but to call it prison is misleading. In order to control the transmission of COVID-19, the United Kingdom declared that all UK citizens arriving in England after being in one of 33 “red list” countries must enter hotel quarantine for 10 days. Citizens stay at one of the hotels included in the quarantine, such as the Radisson Blue Edwardian—a 4-star hotel that has two restaurants that provide meals.

The UK offers travelers a “what to expect” guide when quarantining. They will be in fully-stocked hotel rooms with WiFi and television and those traveling together will be allowed to stay in a room together. They provide three full meals, coffee, tea, fresh fruit, water, soft drinks, and the ability to order anything additional from room service or for delivery, with hotels offering menus to quarantined citizens. 

Due to the pandemic, quarantine generally does not allow outside time to exercise and they address this in the guide. During the 10 day period, there is a space that allows for exercise, where people are escorted and expected to observe social distancing, which is what was shown in the video. The BBC interviewed several people in the quarantine hotels and though they express sadness and displeasure at the restrictions to their movement they also note that the hotel’s conditions are “not bad.”

Some versions of the circulating video include notations stating “single file exercising.” By regulation, this is not a requirement. Guests are allowed to be with the people they are traveling with and even in the video people can be seen walking side-by-side in the background.

UK prisons are a much different story. One former inmate recounted that around 6 hours a day of work is mandatory, at very low pay. He described the food as having very poor quality with a cheese sandwich being the usual lunch. The accommodations of a prison cell are much lower quality than the hotel rooms at the Radisson Blu Edwardian, as pictured below:

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A prison cell in a UK prison (Screenshot.)
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A room at the Radisson Blu Edwardian at Heathrow (radissonhotels.com)

While the limitations placed on movement and freedom may begin to feel restrictive for the 10 days of required quarantine for UK citizens, it is hyperbole to call the quarantine hotels prison camps.

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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