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Heathrow chaos as passengers ‘stand next to arrivals from red list’ amid variant concerns

UK arrivals faced chaos at the border with three hour waits and passengers left standing next to travellers from red list countries, it has been reported.

Passengers at Heathrow spoke of their fear of catching Covid while being crammed into the busy airport.

Others were reported to have claimed they were left stood next to arrivals from Covid-ravaged India while queueing for hours.

It comes on the same day that England lifted a raft of lockdown restrictions put in place to help tackle the spread of coronavirus.

Among the changes foreign holidays were once again re-opened to Brit tourists, with countries placed into a traffic light system of risk, from green to amber and red.

India, which has seen Covid rampage through the population, is on the red list, meaning a hotel quarantine and multiple tests are needed when traveling.

Passengers stand in a queue to the British Airways check-in desks
Some raised concerns over the number of Border Force staff

The Mail Online reports that passengers had taken advantage of at least 340 flights from Heathrow and Gatwick believed to be destinations in the medium-risk amber category.

These were said to have included nine flights to Rome, 21 to Paris and 26 to New York – on what is likely to be one of the busiest days of the year for British airports.

One traveller stuck in the queue in Terminal 2 at 10:40am said: “I arrived back in the country from South Africa – one of the red listed countries. I was more terrified catching Covid while going through border control than walking around South Africa.

“While queuing there was no social distancing we had a plane from India arrive straight after ours and we queued for over three hours and when their plane arrived it was out the door.”

Passengers stand in a queue to the British Airways check-in desks
Restrictions for foreign holidays were lifted on Monday

Heathrow said the limited reopening meant that it had 11,000 people flying out on Monday, up from 7,000 a day last week but well below the 120,000 typical at this time of year pre-pandemic.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday a tough border regime would stay in place for the foreseeable future.

Ministers have said people should not go on holiday to countries which are not on the green list, and Mr Johnson said it would not be extended any time soon because of the risk of new variants.

Journalist Steve Myall spoke of his chaotic experience of travelling to Heathrow from New York via a thread on Twitter, saying he was asked to sit with a family who had arrived from a red list country.

He added that of the 35 Border Force desks less than 10 were staffed and said he made it through ‘after almost two hours.’

People queue up for an easyJet plane
easyJet relaunched holiday and leisure flights to green-lit destinations

Responding, the airport said: “Border Force is currently experiencing some delays as they conduct Health Measure Checks to ensure passenger compliance with the UK Government’s latest entry requirements.

“We have raised your concern with our colleagues at Border Force whose responsibility it is to ensure that passengers within the red listed queue remain separate from other passengers. Thank you.”

The re-opening of foreign travel came amid growing concern over the Indian variant that has ripped through the country.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said the Government needed to be “much more cautious” about reopening international travel.

And Matt Hancock said earlier that holidays in amber countries should not take place at all.

He said people should “certainly not” go on holiday to some popular tourist destinations such as Spain, Italy, France and Greece, because of the risk from mutant strains of Covid.

Just 12 countries are currently on the green list, meaning no period of quarantine is needed, including Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel.

It comes as the bosses of British Airways and Heathrow Airport urged the Government to open up more routes for travel, including to the United States, and to simplify the testing hurdles needed to fly.

“We are calling on the government to help people to plan ahead by publishing a list of countries expected to be on the
green list for the summer,” said Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye.

The bosses also said fully vaccinated people should not require a Covid-19 test upon return from a low-risk country, and that a cheaper lateral flow test should be sufficient for those who are not vaccinated.


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