Health officials 'tell hotels to isolate migrants' to prevent outbreak

Public health officials ‘tell hotels to keep migrants with cases of diphtheria and Covid isolated in their rooms’ in bid to prevent population outbreak

  • Migrants must not share crockery, cutlery or linens with others to prevent risk
  • Iraqi migrant who died in immigration centre confirmed to have diphtheria
  • Suella Braverman criticised for moving potentially infected migrants across UK
  • Risk of diphtheria  to public ‘very low’ due to vaccine uptake, authorities say

Migrants with diphtheria and Covid are to be confined to their hotel rooms to prevent outbreaks to the general population, according to new emergency health guidance.

This comes the day after an Iraqi migrant who died in the controversial Manston immigration centre was confirmed to have been infected with diphtheria, a highly contagious infectious disease

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been facing criticism following reports that dozens of asylum seekers believed to be infected with diphtheria were shifted to hotels around the UK from Manston.

The health guidance has been issued to hotels acting as accommodation for asylum seekers after around 50 cases of diphtheria were detected among them, The Times reported.

The controversial Manston Immigration Removal Centre in Manston, Kent is pictured on November 20

British Home Secretary Suella Braverman attends the welcome ceremony of the President of the Republic of South Africa on November 22, 2022 in London

As part of the emergency measures, asylum seekers housed in hotels must remain in their rooms and will be sent meals with crockery and utensils that must not be used by others.

Linens must not also be shared, while migrants must double-bag their laundry before leaving it outside their door, and clean their rooms themselves.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the government body responsible for protecting the public against infectious disease outbreaks, issued the guidance following a number of outbreaks in hotels and centres housing migrants, according to The Times. 

Alongside diphtheria, cases of other contagious skin conditions such as scabies, group A Strep and MRSA have been found in residents of migrant hotels, as well as flu, Covid-19 and norovirus.   

The UKHSA said overcrowding at the Manston migrant processing centre in Kent was among the reasons for the emergency guidelines, adding that low vaccination uptakes among migrants were another concern.

However, Trish Mannes, UKHSA Director for the South East, said in a statement that  the risk of diphtheria to the general public ‘remains very low, due to high uptake of the diphtheria vaccine in this country.’

She added: ‘In order to limit the risk of diphtheria being passed on within asylum seeker settings, UKHSA continues to recommend that individuals arriving at Reception Centres, and who have moved on recently, are offered a diphtheria vaccine and preventative treatment.’

A number of migrants were rehoused in hotels nationwide following the closure of the Manston processing centre amid reports of overcrowding and outbreaks.

Suella Braverman was criticised for the move by Lib Dem health spokesperson Daisy Cooper, who called for the home secretary’s resignation.

Writing on Twitter, the MP said: ‘The UK is better than this. The Conservative government should be ashamed of their complacency over the health and wellbeing of asylum seekers coming out of Manston. 

‘This is more than an outrage. This is a scandal. Braverman must take responsibility and resign immediately.’

The controversial Manston centre now stands empty after being crammed with more than twice the number of Channel arrivals it was designed to process.

The Dover Immigration Centre in Dover, Kent stands empty on November 23, 2022 following a period of bad weather which meant boats were not able to make the crossing to Britain

A group of people thought to be migrants cross the Channel in a small boat headed in the direction of Dover, Kent on August 10, 2020

The facility was designed to hold 1,600 but earlier this month was holding around 4,000, as officials struggled to cope with record numbers of arrivals.

An Iraqi man who died there on November 19 is said to have arrived in the UK on November 12 and was taken straight to hospital.

But he was later discharged and taken to Manston the day before he died.

Though the Home Office spokesperson initially said there was ‘no evidence at this stage to suggest that this tragic death was caused by an infectious disease,’ it was later confirmed that the man was infected with diphtheria at the time of his death.

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