A LABOUR councillor in Basingstoke has said the government’s travel quarantine procedure is ‘clear class discrimination’.

Cllr Sajish Tom, who represents Popley, has worked at Basingstoke hospital in the administration team throughout the pandemic, and has voiced his concerns regarding easing of restrictions.

Now, he says more must be done to make sure people are not discriminated against when making important trips to one of the government’s ‘red list’ countries.

Currently, travellers entering one of these countries must book and pay for a 10-day-isolation in one of the Department for Health’s ‘quarantine hotels’.

Last week, the Gazette revealed that Basingstoke’s Crowne Plaza is to become one such facility.

The government requires travellers to pay a fee of £1,750 for their stay, with an additional rate of £650 for children over 12 and £325 for children between five and 12 years old.

In addition, travellers could soon face a £500 increase on this charge, with The Telegraph last week reporting that ministers are considering the fee hike to curb “unnecessary” trips to red list countries.

Cllr Tom said: “The quarantine hotel is £1,750 per person, and is going to be increased by £500 which is an absolute backstab to the medium class British family.”

He said that he “sees nothing wrong” with the Crown Plaza being used as a quarantine venue, but added: “Using a budget hotel could bring down the cost per person by at least £500 and that difference would be huge for working people.”

Highlighting some of the reasons people may be choosing to travel, Cllr Tom referenced the situation of his own wife and daughter, who have recently travelled home to the Kerala region of southern India to visit a sick relative.

He continued: “In my experience, a lot of Indians are travelling to India, not for enjoying a holiday but for family issues, and they cannot afford to pay this.

“They say the reason is to discourage the travelling, but those people are not going on a 5-star holiday! It is clear class discrimination. Those high earning people don’t mind if it’s two thousand, five thousand or six thousand pounds, they will just splash it.”

When asked whether local action could be taken on this issue, Cllr Tom was not convinced, commenting: “The Prime Minister needs to open his eyes because I don’t think a single council can do anything.

“It would be fantastic if the local Tory-run council asked the government to make changes, that would be very helpful. But I don’t think they will because honestly I don’t think one council can do a lot, there would be the same limitations if it was a Labour-run council and a Labour government.”

He added: “I am not against quarantine, it is needed to stop the spread, but it shouldn’t be about exploitation.”

In response, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Our top priority has always been protecting the public and our robust border regime is helping minimise the risk of new variants being imported into the UK.

“Currently people are advised not to travel from England to red list countries and anyone returning to England from a red list country needs to book and pay for their hotel quarantine package, which is a single-cost charge.

“Anyone facing financial hardship has the opportunity to apply for a deferred repayment plan when booking. We keep this policy under review to ensure we continue to support those most in need.”