Six out of a family party of 10 holidaymakers who stayed at a Devon holiday park during half-term have tested positive with Covid-19 – and they blame poor hygiene.
Colleen Smith www.devonlive.com
They say one of the caravans was particularly dirty when they arrived – and some of the mess included a previous occupants’ discarded test kit.
Now they are terrified that they may have passed on the virus to their elderly father who was too ill to travel with them to Devon because he has serious lung problems. Now he is also feeling ill and the family is awaiting the result of his Covid test.
The holiday was planned as a nostalgic get-together to celebrate the end of lockdown at Devon Cliffs at Sandy Park in Exmouth – which they used to visit as children.
Devon Cliffs owners Haven Holidays say they have strict cleaning protocols in place and say the family did not complain when they first arrived. Haven says no team members has Covid “at the time of the family’s break” and the person who cleaned their caravans has had no symptoms: “Whilst we take all complaints seriously we also hold our cleanliness to the highest standards and would, if we had been made aware on arrival, re-cleaned the family caravan in line with our Caravan Cleanliness Guarantee.”
The family – several of whom work in the NHS – had travelled to Devon from Portsmouth and Derby, because they have happy childhood memories of Devon Cliffs. But now they say: “We wish we had never gone.”
The family say they complained via the check-in App about one of their caravans being dirty – they cleaned up most of the dirt themselves and park owners Haven Holidays came and took away cushions which appeared to have blood stains the following day.
One of the family said: “The cutlery and crockery were all dirty. There are no dishwashers in those vans so we had to clean all of those again. The cushions and walls were dirty with what looked like blood stains.
“When we first arrived mine looked OK at first sight, but my sister told them she wasn’t satisfied and asked to speak to somebody – nobody came and so she went to reception the next day to complain.”
They also found packaging which they later realised was from a Covid test kit discarded by the previous occupants.
One of the party who has tested positive is a senior NHS nursing Sister who has been caring for people with Covid for the last 18 months: “It’s been a horrible time – I’ve not seen my parents in all that time because I wanted to protect them. We didn’t see them at Christmas – and now we have put them at risk and contracted Covid because of poor hygiene.
“It’s not good enough. I’m off work – my daughter works for the NHS and she’s off work. My youngest daughter is a student with a part-time job. She’s off work and won’t get paid – the domino effect of this is massive.”
She drove from Derby with her two grown-up children and picked up her mother. They met up with two of her sisters and four nieces.
The NHS worker said: “I feel exhausted. I suffer with asthma and I am trying to stop it going on to my chest.
“Dad has had part of his lung removed. What worries us is that before we knew we had Covid, some of us hugged dad when we got home. When we left the holiday park – one of my sisters thought she was ill with hay fever on the Friday because they were cutting the grass.
“It wasn’t until we got home that we were tested and found out six out of 10 of us are positive.”
The family has raised the issue with Devon County Council’s Environmental Health department and the CEO of Haven Holidays Jane Bentall.
A spokesman for Haven said: “Since the start of the pandemic Haven has taken a number of steps to ensure that the safety and security of its guests, owners and team remains its number one priority. We have very strict protocols in place in relation to Covid 19 with regard to the cleanliness of our holiday homes and would ask guests to contact our teams immediately on arrival if they find their accommodation has not been cleaned to our high standards.
“In the case of this family, after checking in they updated our arrival app confirming they had reached their holiday home and when asked to score the cleanliness of the caravan and if they required a call back they did not raise any issues.
“The following morning they contacted our team regarding the cleanliness of the scatter cushions which was addressed at the time, with one being taken from the caravan as a stain could not be removed. The cleaning was undertaken by a senior member of the team and the family were happy with the cleaning response. Later that day the family asked if the scatter cushion could be returned which was duly done. No other concerns were raised during the stay.”
The family dispute this and say they ticked ‘not satisfied’ on the check-in App and asked for a member of staff to contact them.
The Haven spokesman said: “Since reopening Haven has made huge investment in cleaning teams including extending the amount of dedicated park teams focused on public areas on park as well as extending the cleaning time allotted to each individual holiday home and the usage of specialist cleaning materials known to kill viruses such as Coronavirus and would refute any claim in relation to this.
“Once a holiday home has been cleaned with particular attention to high touch areas such as work surfaces, handles and television remotes, it is checked by a specialist team member and then a special seal is placed across the door to show it meets Haven’s new standard.
“At the time of the family’s break we had no team members with symptoms of Covid or any team self- isolating, in addition the cleaner who cleaned the caravan also has had no symptoms of Covid pre or post break. We are also not aware of anyone who has stayed in the caravan prior to the family stay that has contracted Covid19.
“Over the course of the last year we have worked closely with the local primary authority who have viewed our standard operating procedures and Covid Risk Assessments and have always been satisfied with our procedures and paperwork. Whilst we take all complaints seriously we also hold our cleanliness to the highest standards and would, if we had been made aware on arrival, re-cleaned the family caravan in line with our Caravan Cleanliness Guarantee.
“We are aware that the family have contacted Environmental Health Officers and we have provided them with full details surrounding the claims from the family.”