File photo of a woman at the window of a boarded-off Holiday Inn hotel, close to Heathrow Airport, west of London, block-booked by the Department of Health to use a quarantine zone. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A confidential sexual harassment reporting line will soon be introduced to ensure the safety of female guests in quarantine hotels, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said on Friday (6), after it emerged that a number of women have been experiencing sexual harassment from male guards in quarantine hotels.
The new confidential reporting line for female guests will be staffed by recently retired and trained police officers, the department said, adding that these lines will provide more options to the female guests for raising such concerns.
Apart from the harassment line, the DHSC also promised guards will get additional training on how to interact with lone women. A complaint team will also be set to deal with problems, reports said.
The move comes after a slew of complaints made against male security guards at quarantine hotels. Earlier, DHSC tried to tackle the issue by announcing that female guests should be supervised by female guards only though only 10 per cent of security officers are women.
Many female guests have said they rarely see female guards even after DHSC’s announcement made two weeks back, reports said, adding many women continue to be harassed by the guards at hotels while isolating.
Saying that sexual harassment or abuse in quarantine hotels is “completely unacceptable and totally abhorrent”, a DHSC spokesperson had earlier asked providers to take strict actions including suspension and reporting the matter to police.
About 18 women have reported the incidents of sexual harassment while isolating alone in quarantine hotels, BBC said in a report, claiming that one such woman is still in quarantine.
Lorna Farmer, 28, from Northamptonshire, told the outlet how she was pestered by a male guard after arriving at the Hilton Garden Inn at Birmingham airport on July 25.
She said a security guard entered her room asking to see her in her pyjamas and sometimes sat on the floor outside her door if she did not answer immediately.
The guard was removed after she complained to Mitie- the employer of the security guard- who also reported the harassment to Northamptonshire police, reports said.
Other women reported incidents of guards making inappropriate gestures while alone in lifts, asking them for hugs and selfies and “eying” them while they exercise.
Travellers arriving from countries on the UK’s red list have to quarantine for 10 full days in designated hotels at a cost of £1,750 for a single adult, rising to £2,285 on 12 August.
Guests must stay in their room at all times except when escorted outside by guards for exercise while food is delivered to the room, as per the government guidelines.
Security companies like Mitie and G4 are hired by the UK government to provide guards for quarantine hotels.
Mitie has claimed earlier that a full investigation is carried out if a guest raises any complaint, adding that it was taking active steps to increase the number of female officers working in quarantine hotels, reports said.