Jobless woman faces huge bill after returning from funeral

Alistair Mason

A woman who lost her job during the pandemic has said she does not know how she will pay for her quarantine hotel stay after flying back to the UK following her father’s funeral in Brazil.

Lizandra Cardoni, 40, travelled to South America on December 6 after her father fell ill with coronavirus, intending to return to her home in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, when he got better.

Although he recovered from Covid-19, he died earlier this month from complications triggered by the disease and Ms Cardoni stayed on for the funeral.

She arrived back in Britain on Friday and now has to quarantine for at least 10 days in the Radisson Blu at Heathrow Airport, for which she is likely to have to pay £1,750.

Lizandra Cardoni's quarantine hotel room
Lizandra Cardoni is quarantining at the Radisson Blu at Heathrow (Lizandra Cardoni/PA)

“It’s the last thing I wanted after I just lost my dad,” she told the PA news agency. “I wasn’t in Brazil on holiday – I went there for a very difficult situation.

“All I wanted to do is just go home, and I can’t.”

Ms Cardoni, who first moved to the UK 10 years ago to study tailoring at the London College of Fashion, lost her job in July when shirt-maker Pink, for whom she was working, shut down activity, in part because of the effects of Covid-19.

She has been living off her redundancy payment and bits of freelance work since, while her husband, a chef, has also seen his income hit by the pandemic.

“To be very honest, I don’t even know how I’m going to pay,” she said.

She said she will find a way to pay if the alternative is “going to prison” but expressed frustration that assistance – in the form of deferred repayment – is only available for those who receive income-related benefits.

“I think it’s just so unfair because it doesn’t mean, if I’m not on benefit, I don’t still need help,” she said.

Although Ms Cardoni – who had a negative Covid test before boarding her flight in Brazil – said the quarantine process was “very organised” at Heathrow, she was puzzled at being allowed to mix with passengers who were not flying from red list countries.

Because there were no direct flights, she changed at Madrid, and she said there was no attempt to separate passengers.

The Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, near Heathrow Airport
The stay at the Radisson Blu will cost at least £1,750 (Steve Parsons/PA)

She said she was “very close” to passengers from non-red list countries in the airport, and one was sitting just one seat away from her on the plane.

“I just thought ‘This just doesn’t make any sense’,” she said.

She is now hoping an exception can be made because of her circumstances so she does not have to pay the fee for the hotel.

The experience of the last few months has been “very sad” and “quite scary”, she said.

“I’m living this pandemic from every aspect,” she added.

“I lost my job, a family member, and now I have to quarantine.”

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