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Father of autistic teenager warns hotel quarantine is damaging son’s health

Alistair Mason, PA
·4-min read

The father of a teenager with autism who is quarantining in a hotel at Heathrow has said the experience has left his son depressed, physically unwell and unable to eat properly.

Nelio Salles De Siqueira, a chef from Peckham in south London, said 16-year-old Caique Pires Salles will barely leave his bed after being forced to stay at the Holiday Inn near the airport following their return to the UK from Brazil.

He spoke of his anguish at being unable to help as his son begged to be taken home, despite notes from his psychiatrist and school warning that the experience would be “psychologically unhealthy”.

“It’s quite frustrating that he had to go through it,” Mr Salles De Siqueira told the PA news agency.

Mr Salles De Siqueira travelled to Brazil with his wife and son to attend a family funeral and, while they were there, new rules on quarantining for people returning to England from red list countries were introduced.

Before coming home, the family tried to find out if it would be possible to get an exemption from the hotel stay because of the effect it would have on Caique’s wellbeing, but were unable to find anybody who could help.

Nelio Salles De Siqueira and his son Caique Pires Salles
Nelio Salles De Siqueira said his son Caique’s mental health is suffering in quarantine (Nelio Salles De Siqueira)

Mr Salles De Siqueira told PA: “We got notes from his psychiatrist, from his school saying it’s psychologically unhealthy, because his mental health is not great.

“But even like that, nobody would listen.”

Mr Salles De Siqueira said it is extremely challenging for his son to be confined in an unfamiliar environment.

“He’s got his routines, he’s got certain foods that he doesn’t eat,” he said. “Here we can’t get any of (the foods he eats).

“He actually hasn’t eaten much since he arrived.”

Caique has had two visits from a medic since arriving at the hotel because of diarrhoea, and is “quite depressed”, his father said.

Mr Salles De Siqueira said Caique barely got out of bed for the first three days they were in the Holiday Inn, adding that he has “never ever seen” his son do that before.

“He’s begging us to do something, to take him out of here,” he said. “That’s when you feel that you are just unable to help.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We recognise the impact restrictions have on many and are grateful for people’s continued efforts to tackle this global pandemic by following the rules to protect others and save lives.

“Wellbeing support is in place at all government-managed quarantine facilities, which includes daily welfare checks. Anyone who has concerns about being in a quarantine hotel on health or wellbeing grounds can seek an assessment by a medical professional after check-in.”

But Mr Salles De Siqueira described the statement as “laughable”, saying the only medical support they had received was in relation to his son’s diarrhoea.

“There are no wellbeing checks and no support either,” he said.

Mr Salles De Siqueira praised hotel staff, saying that “whatever you need they are there for you”, but added “still there’s that feeling of a prison”.

The Holiday Inn near Heathrow Airport
Nelio Salles De Siqueira was full of praise for the staff at the Holiday Inn (Steve Parsons/PA)

And he said that, while they were in Heathrow Airport, some staff were “rude” and “unfriendly”.

“People were actually scolding you… really, really afraid of you running away, as if you have committed a crime.”

Mr Salles De Siqueira said he fully accepts the need to quarantine after arriving back from Brazil, but said he does not understand why it has to be in a hotel rather than at home.

The family changed flights in Madrid on their way back from Brazil and in doing so mixed with passengers who were not returning from red list countries.

“We spent two hours in the same environment, breathing the same air, eating, talking to each other throughout the flight,” he said.

“Then we arrived here and the people that came from a red-listed country had to go to a queue and the other people, that were in contact with all these other people, could go through.

“Based on that, it kind of defeats the purpose of the hotel quarantine.”

Mr Salles De Siqueira said that, although any change is likely to be too late to benefit his family, the Government should reassess the rules so others do not find themselves in the same situation.

“I just don’t want any other family with the same issues to have to go through it,” he said.

“If we create this awareness it might be a way out.”