Businessman returning from South Africa says government refused him medical exemption and staff ignored allergy warning
A businessman who has a severe nut allergy has accused the UK government of endangering his life after he was served nuts and traces of nuts during hotel quarantine after returning from a work trip to South Africa.
Richard Lace, 40, went into anaphylactic shock and had to call for an ambulance after eating two mouthfuls of a rice dish at a hotel at Heathrow on 3 December.
The Department of Health and Social Care has now released him from quarantine on medical grounds – something Lace had requested to no avail four days previously – after it was contacted by the Guardian.
“It really is ridiculous. They had the information from day one. They had two opportunities to get it right and not kill me and I can’t trust that they won’t kill me on the third occasion,” he said.
The incident comes just days after the film-maker and actor Richard E Grant criticised the government for the “very poor standard” of food served in another hotel after he, too, was forced to quarantine after a trip visiting his mother in South Africa.
Lace, who runs a security firm and had flown to South Africa for business meetings, described the Covid quarantine process as a joke. He said elderly people and young families were made to stand in a queue for three hours to be processed and then had to wait an hour for a coach, with a further hour sitting on it because the hotel had not yet opened to them.
He carries an EpiPen for emergencies but had not expected to have to use it, as he had notified the hotel of his allergy in the clearly marked area on the form all passengers were asked to complete.
After being served breakfast pastries with whole nuts visible he alerted hotel managers again to the life-threatening risk of nuts and cross-contamination in food. “I told them it was crazy to serve nuts. I told them ‘I have an EpiPen and I could literally end up in hospital or dying in my room. You have got to make sure this doesn’t happen again’, and they said ‘OK, no problem, so sorry’.
“Then tea came. It was some sort of rice dish and I took two bites and straight away I could feel something wasn’t right. I could feel my chest tightening, I was wheezing and looked in the mirror and the left side of my face was puffed out. My anxiety levels went through the roof and I called the number they give you for a medic. I must have rang three times and no one picked up and then I dialled security and nobody picked up and then I just rang zero and a young lad answered and called an ambulance straight away,” said Lace.
The paramedics arrived within 10 minutes and stayed with him for more than two hours.
After that, Lace refused all hotel food until his release, saying he could not trust the kitchen not to endanger his life again, and instead relied on fruit and Pot Noodles ordered online from a supermarket.