A malnourished girl who could "drop dead" due to a rare brain condition cannot return to the UK for life-saving treatment.

Roberta Wakeling's family has been told that despite the 11-year-old's desperate state of health, they must stay in a quarantine hotel before getting medical help in Britain.

Experts have told mum Nicola, 37, and dad Rob, 38, who moved from Essex to Abu Dhabi, UAE for work six years ago, that Roberta must receive specialist treatment immediately.

But with their current home of on the UK's travel red list, they need to quarantine and have had an exemption request denied.

Roberta suffers from Pandas – short for Paediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections – which can trigger a range of mental health conditions.

It’s left her with a severe eating disorder called avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, meaning she doesn’t eat for up to nine days at a time, The Mirror reports.

She can’t leave her bed and is too weak to lift her head. She weighs 3st 13lb – compared to the average of 5st 11lb for a girl of her age.

But officials insist the family must spend 10 days in a quarantine hotel first – and Roberta’s parents fear this could trigger a fatal mental health episode.

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Nicola said: "Our family is in turmoil. It breaks my heart to see football fans coming into the country when we’ve been going through months of hell. The government should be ashamed.

"At one point, Roberta was suicidal and said, 'I'll never eat and drink again'."

Nicola added: "She can only eat food from her own plate, prepared by her parents, and even then it’s just a tiny amount, like two party sausage rolls a day.

"She appears to meet all of the criteria for quarantine exemption but we’ve been told she can’t come into the country unless we spend 10 days in a hotel.

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"I've sent them a huge list of reasons why she can't go into that facility. Her body has started to waste away. She can't hold her head up. She's got muscle loss and she's at risk of bedsores.

"In a hotel, we'll all be in a room where she'll be so triggered by everything, like the smell of the hotel food. This could be fatal."

Roberta was struck down by scarlet fever in 2019, aged nine. Following the virus, she suffered extreme anxiety and refused to leave the house for nine months.

She was diagnosed with Pandas by a doctor in Dubai, who suggested her best hope of survival was inpatient care in the UK by a specialist team of doctors.

Nicola said: "We were told girls like Roberta drop dead all the time. She's really malnourished, with significant mineral deficiency. We were hysterical and so scared."

Nicola and Rob, also parents to Rupert, eight, instantly began planning to return home.

Generous family members in the UK have set up a Just Giving page which has raised more than £27,000 towards medical bills and legal fees.

But Nicola said: "We've cancelled our bank accounts, our visas and resigned our jobs.

"It's only a matter of time before we have to leave this country but we can’t.

"Even if we wanted to go into the hotel, they are overbooked and letting football fans in.

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"I don't sleep at night. I lie on the floor on a mattress because we’ve sold most of our furniture. Roberta is deteriorating every day."

In a letter to the family on June 22, the Department of Health and Social Care said: "Medical exemptions from managed quarantine are only available where a vulnerable person would not receive appropriate support in the designated managed quarantine hotel, as the result of a severe medical or health condition.

"Whilst acknowledging the difficulties related to Roberta's health, I regret that your circumstances would not meet the criteria for a medical exemption.

"We note that there are no medical appointments for Roberta to attend during the period of quarantine, and feel that with the support of both parents, Roberta can manage in hotel quarantine."

In a second letter on June 25, permission was again denied. The department said an approved provider would be "pleased to arrange suitable accommodation" and the family would have access to medical professionals onsite.

The Daily Star has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care for comment.

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