A mother who claims her experience in a Covid quarantine hotel triggered severe asthma attacks has blasted Matt Hancock and the UK’s most senior civil servant for “disgraceful” comments about travellers stuck in lockdown rooms.

Hannah Pickersgill, 38, said she and her husband, Richard, and their two young children, aged five and eight at the time, were trapped in a “dirty” and dusty hotel room near Gatwick after flying back from South Africa which was placed on the red list while they were there on holiday.

At one point, the mother-of-two called 999 for a paramedic when her asthma, which she believes was triggered by conditions in the hotel, left her struggling to breath.

Her son, who was eight at the time, was left “completely traumatised” by their time in the hotel, she said.

Newly released messages from the cache of WhatsApps leaked to The Telegraph suggest that then-Health Secretary Mr Hancock and a top civil servant mocked people in quarantine hotels.

“I thought I was going to die in there because of how little I could breathe and yet still no one would help me,” she told i.

“And for them to be making comments like that at the time that it was, that it’s funny, that they’re waiting for people to come out of first class and go to a Premier Inn. The guy is a disgrace.”

Hannah Pickersgill, her son Rory, daughter Erin and husband Richard spent 10 days in a quarantine hotel (Photo: supplied)
A man’s dirty boxer shorts were found in their hotel quarantine room (Photo: Supplied)

In an exchange in February 2021 with senior No 10 official Simon Case, Mr Hancock said they were “giving big families all the big suites and putting pop stars in the box rooms”.

Mr Case replied: “I just want to see some of the faces of people coming out of first class into a Premier Inn shoe box.”

A few days later, Mr Case asked how many people had been “locked up” in hotels the previous day.

Mr Hancock responded: “None. But 149 chose to enter the country and are now in Quarantine Hotels due to their own free will!”, to which Mr Case replied: “Hilarious.”

Ms Pickersgill, from Truro, Cornwall, said reading the messages had left her “irate”.

She added: “Calling it hilarious. I don’t really know where to start with that. I was in a dirty hotel room and someone else’s boxers were in the bathroom.

“I had to call paramedics because I was so unwell because of the conditions that we were being kept in. My children had to watch me gasping for breath for 10 days.

“I can’t understand what any part of that is hilarious and it just shows how delusional and disgraceful he is.

“It demonstrates that the politicians in our country are not getting into politics for a deep-held desire to serve our country, to improve our public services, to serve our people. They are there because they have got some sick desire to be in power and abuse it.

The room was covered in dust and dirt, the family said (Photo: Supplied)
The family had to pay £4,500 to go into a quarantine hotel after flying back from South Africa (Photo: Supplied)

“And at the same time Matt Hancock is kissing people he shouldn’t be kissing, the party are having parties that they shouldn’t be having.”

She added: “You know what is hilarious is that he said that he was giving families the big rooms while celebrities could have the box rooms.

“Well, I’d love him to have seen the room that we had. It was not a suite, it was an absolute disgrace.

“We paid £4,500 to the detriment of our physical and mental health and bank balance. My children basically lived on chicken nuggets and chips for every meal for 10 days.”

Ms Pickersgill claimed there was no fresh air in the room as the windows were not allowed to be opened and they had to clean out the air conditioning unit which was blowing out dust.

Her children, who were eight and five at the time, were “completely traumatised” and are now terrified their experience will be repeated when they return to the UK from South Africa later this year.

Dirty water after the family who were forced to clean out the air conditioning unit as it was spewing out dust (Photo: Supplied)
She described conditions in the room as ‘disgusting’ (Photo: supplied)

A paramedic who arrived after she called 999 was questioned by hotel security staff after taking her out of the room. But despite her ill health the family was unable to cut short their 10-day quarantine stay.

Zaina Erhaim, 38, a Syrian journalist based in London, said she had her PTSD from the war in her homeland triggered by her stay in a Covid quarantine hotel with her daughter, then aged five, and partner in September, 2021.

She suffered flashbacks and panic attacks and stomach pain and said she felt “unfairly imprisoned” during her worst time “since I was hiding in the corridor of my Aleppo home from barrel bombing”.

They were only allowed to leave four days into her 10-night stay after a lawyer saw her Twitter messages and took up their case.

“The term locked up seems very much to make sense to me because this is what my daughter still describes our experiences as,” she said.

“When she wants to remind me of that she would say, ‘Do you remember the time when we were in prison in something that is not a prison?’

“It makes sense for me that they know that this is more like being locked up rather than actually quarantine. And this is just yet another shock after seeing all those parties.”

She added: “I don’t think anyone would choose to be in prison for 10 days and pay £4,000.”

Zaina Erhaim, 38, suffered a severe exacerbation of her PTSD while in hotel quarantine (Photo: supplied)

On Thursday, Mr Hancock said he was “hugely disappointed and sad at the massive betrayal and breach of trust by journalists Isabel Oakeshott after she handed over more than 100,000 Whatsapps relating to the Government’s handling of the Covid pandemic to The Telegraph.

She obtained the messages during the time she spent working on his book The Pandemic Diaries.

“There is absolutely no public interest case for this huge breach,” he said. “All the materials for the book have already been made available to the Inquiry, which is the right, and only, place for everything to be considered properly and the right lessons to be learned. As we have seen, releasing them in this way gives a partial, biased account to suit an anti-lockdown agenda.

“Isabel and I had worked closely together for more than a year on my book, based on legal confidentiality and a process approved by the Cabinet Office. Isabel repeatedly reiterated the importance of trust throughout, and then broke that trust.

“Last night, I was accused of sending menacing messages to Isabel. This is also wrong. When I heard confused rumours of a publication late on Tuesday night, I called and messaged Isabel to ask her if she had ‘any clues’ about it, and got no response. When I then saw what she’d done, I messaged to say it was ‘a big mistake’. Nothing more.”

By admin