Overseas workers in the oil and gas industry say they have been “completely forgotten about” in the UK’s hotel quarantine rules, leaving them unable to see their families.
Gary Douglass, a rigging specialist from Sunderland, is among those working offshore in the United Arab Emirates, whose shift pattern of 28 days on, 28 days off means it is now effectively impossible for him to come home.
Mr Douglass, 51, was stuck overseas for seven months last year when the UAE closed its borders at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since they reopened he has been able to get home, albeit for less than two weeks out of eight as he is required to quarantine for 14 days when he arrives in the UAE before being allowed to travel out to the rig.
Now, new rules for arrivals coming in at home mean he would have to quarantine for 10 days on arrival in the UK as well.
A lack of direct flights also means the trip from Dubai can take two days, meaning he would effectively have to begin the journey back immediately after quarantining – while also paying £1,750 each time.
“I’m pretty gutted to be honest with you,” he told PA.
“If it was 12 months ago I could accept it but the UAE and most other countries brought in restrictions there and then and the UK stayed open.
“So, why, 12 months down the line, are they putting in all these restrictions?”
Wait in Dubai for negative Covid test (one day)
Travel to UK from Dubai (two days)
UK hotel quarantine (10 days)
Journey back to Dubai (one day)
Dubai hotel quarantine (14 days)
Mr Douglass said the company he works for has stringent safety policies to ensure workers do not bring Covid on to the rig, where one case could mean the entire operation has to be shut down.
Given the circumstances, he believes there should be an exemption that allows people in his position to quarantine at home.
He said: “Somebody could contact me every day, I’d take as many tests as required – I would even (be happy to) be fitted with one of those ankle locator tags.”
“We’ve been completely forgotten about,” he said.
Carl Langley, a mechanical supervisor from South Shields, said he was frustrated by the change in the rules.
“I feel a little bit pissed off,” he told PA. “I cannot get home to see the family.
“I just think it’s absolutely shocking that they’ll not give any sort of exemption.”
The 46-year-old said the only other option available would be to quit his job.
“It’s something I would certainly consider but I cannot afford to,” he said.
“Especially in the current climate – it’s not like there’s millions of jobs bounding about, it just seems all you hear is more and more job losses.
“So at this present time it’s something I would contemplate. I’ve got a mortgage.”
He added: “People say ‘you could be stuck in worse parts of the world’ but I want to be home with my family.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We recognise the impact restrictions have on many people and are grateful for the public’s continued efforts to comply with the rules and help us tackle this global pandemic.
“Coupled with our enhanced testing regime, the new border controls we have introduced are necessary to provide a further level of protection against Covid-19 variants. There are limited exemptions to our managed quarantine, which are set out on gov.uk.”