Airbnb hosts found offering ‘isolation retreats’ in defiance of lockdown rules

Airbnb hosts who have advertised properties as suitable to self-isolate in during the coronavirus pandemic have been labelled “dangerous and irresponsible” by the Government.

New laws around the Covid-19 pandemic say holiday accommodation should only be provided to keyworkers who need to self-isolate.

But a number of listings have appeared on the site which advertise themselves as suitable locations where people can isolate.

They include a house in Edinburgh advertising itself as “a perfect place for isolation and security” and a dome built in the garden of a house in Hertfordshire.

In response, Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston said the Government would write to companies like Airbnb to remind them of their responsibilities during the lockdown.

“Our advice is clear. Essential travel does not include holidays, leisure travel and visits to second homes, and people must remain in their primary residence,” he said.

“Those not taking these steps put additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk and I call on the tourism industry to support this important work and not to encourage people to book holidays or staycations within the UK during these uncertain times.

“It is incredibly irresponsible, and dangerous, for some property owners to be marketing themselves as ‘isolation retreats’. We are writing to companies today to remind them of their responsibilities at this time.

“As soon as it is safe to do so we will be encouraging people to book a great British holiday and show our support to the UK’s travel industry, but at the moment people need to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”

Airbnb said had it tightened its rules around bookings during the pandemic, including blocking spare room and shared space bookings to adhere to social distancing measures and removing its “instant book” tool for entire homes.

“We want hosts and guests to follow the rules and we have no tolerance for listings that ignore health or travel advisories,” a spokesman for the company said.

“The Government has set out clear guidance on the limited conditions under which necessary travel is permitted and we have taken a number of steps to support these measures, including blocking private room bookings and switching off our ‘instant book’ function for whole properties.

“Hosts in the UK are also opening their homes to NHS and other healthcare providers as part of a global initiative that has seen more than 100,000 places to stay made available so far.”