Coronavirus in Scotland: Private security firm G4S hired to 'escort' travellers inside quarantine hotels despite assurances from health chiefs they would not be guarded

Private security staff have been hired to escort quarantining travellers whenever they leave their hotel rooms, despite assurances isolation would not be enforced by guards.

The revelation comes despite claims from Scottish health chiefs last week that “guards and fences” would not be used to keep guests – who must pay £1,750 to quarantine - from absconding.

On Thursday, February 12 security giant G4S was awarded a contract by the UK’s Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) to deliver a “managed quarantine” both in Scotland and as part of a wider supply deal covering England.

The Scottish Government has block-booked six hotels close to airports in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, with up to 1,300 rooms available for the programme which launched on Monday.

A spokesperson for the G4S revealed that its officers – who have been spotted on site – are tasked with escorting quarantine guests whenever they leave their rooms.

But at the Scottish Government’s daily briefing on Friday – a whole day after G4S had been hired for the job – National Clinical Director Jason Leitch insisted that guards would not be used to enforce isolation in Scotland’s quarantine hotels.

Professor Leitch said he and other officials were not expecting quarantining guests to “abscond”, nor for there to be “guards and fences around every hotel to keep people in.”

He added: “It’s not that kind of image. We will allow people to behave like human beings.”

A family arriving from Turkey are escorted to a quarantine hotel on February 15, 2021 in Edinburgh (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The National Clinical Director was trying to reassure the public that the intention behind managed isolation is to support people to quarantine safely and effectively and reduce the risk of transmission of the virus, it should not feel like captivity.

"Security guards are being routinely stationed at quarantine hotels to assist travellers with compliance as is the case in other countries who have adopted a similar policy.”

The discrepancy raises yet more questions over how well the Scottish and UK Governments are coordinating their international travel quarantine programmes.

On Tuesday it emerged that the first family of foreign arrivals placed into a quarantine hotel in Scotland were only there because of “inaccurate advice” from Scottish Government officials at Edinburgh airport.

Chun Wong and his eight-year-old daughter Kiernan stopped off in Dublin, Ireland en route from the United States and were therefore exempt from the hotel policy.

On Sunday, Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson had warned that differences in quarantine rules on either side of the border presented a “loophole” for visitors to avoid self-isolating in hotels.

While people flying directly into Scotland on international flights must undergo a 10-day isolation period at a quarantine hotel, in England, only passengers from the 33 countries on the UK Government’s so-called “red list” are required to do so.

A UK Government spokesperson dismissed the claims, saying: “As we have said throughout the pandemic, you must follow the rules set by the relevant devolved administration when in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“Those arriving into England can transit onto Scotland but must follow the quarantine and self-isolation rules of the devolved administration on arrival.”

A message from the Editor:Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.