Heathrow’s departure lounge is packed with passengers this morning ahead of tomorrow’s looming suspension of travel corridors that will prevent people arriving in the UK without a negative test.
Passengers could be seen queuing at the West London airport, with queues forming at the BA and Iberia desks, as a travel consultant warned there were ‘bumpy days ahead,’ when new travel rules come into place.
Most of the two airlines’ flights today are to the US, although there also flights to the likes of Aberdeen, Belfast, Edinburgh and Newcastle, meaning some passengers may be getting a connecting flight home before tomorrow’s restrictions come into place.
Departures will also be busier on a Sunday as business travellers fly-out ahead of the working week.
Arrivals at Terminal 5 remained quiet this morning, but are expected to get busier later today after thousands flew in to the UK yesterday ahead of Monday’s restrictions.
Travellers could be seen waiting for their results after taking tests inside Terminal 5.
Queues at Heathrow today come amid concerns that most UK arrivals are going unchecked for Covid compliance by Border Force.
There were long queues at Heathrow’s departure lounge this morning, while arrivals remained relatively quiet
Queues stretched far back as people dashed to fly out of the UK before travel corridors close tomorrow. The closure means people will only be able to arrive the UK if they have tested negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours of their flight
Passengers travelling through Heathrow Airport could be seen waiting for the result of their Covid-19 test this morning
From 4am tomorrow passengers will have to hand over a negative Covid-19 test certificate to check-in staff before flying to the UK.
Guidance on the Government website states it must meet standards on ‘specificity and sensitivity’ of 90 per cent and 87 per cent respectively.
Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, told MailOnline: ‘There’s likely to be some very bumpy days ahead where travellers coming in will face some confusion over their tests.
‘Airline staff are not medical experts and I expect there will be some confusion over whether the Covid test certificates meet the specifity and sensitivity requirements that the Government has set out.
‘I’d advise to anyone arriving in Britain is before they pack their bags, to check the Government website and make sure they get the right test before flying out.’
The Government has pointed out PCR, LAMP and lateral-flow tests are all acceptable methods.
All arrivals to the UK could face staying in new quarantine hotels under plans to reduce the transmission of new coronavirus variants from abroad – but there are concerns 90 per cent of arrivals could go unchecked by Border Force.
Officials have been told to prepare to use facial-recognition and GPS technology in order to ensure people stay in isolation when they arrive in the country.
Passengers are being asked to complete online passenger locator forms to tell officials where they are staying after arriving in the UK.
But MPs have heard just one in 10 of the forms are checked by Border Force, while police officers told to visit addresses for potential breaches of quarantine simply walk away if no one answers – with no follow up investigation.
Since the start of the pandemic, millions of people have flown in to the UK, but just 247 fines have been handed out to people flouting quarantine rules.
MP David Morris told The Sun: ‘We are past the stage of being able to trust people to isolate if the system is not being policed.
‘We should ramp up the fines or follow Australia’s lead and take travellers straight to secure hotels.’
As passengers queued at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, figures revealed just 247 fines had been handed out to people who broke quarantine rules since the start of the pandemic
While departures remains busy, there is a quieter flow of arrivals at Heathrow Airport today
Testing facilities have been set up at Heathrow Airport, offering arrivals the chance to cut the number of quarantine days from 10 to five
With airlines taking short trips to Edinburgh and Newcastle today, some passengers may have been taking connecting flights before tomorrow’s travel restrictions come into place
Officials have been told to prepare to use facial-recognition and GPS technology in order to ensure people stay in isolation when they arrive in the country
The Department for Transport has said tomorrow’s measures will come alongside increased enforcement, both at the border and across the country.
Border Force is expected to increase the number of spot checks carried out on passengers arriving in the country.
Visitors will have to pay for the hotel stays themselves under the proposed plans.
Civil servants were told to study New Zealand’s policy of ‘directed isolation’, reported the Sunday Times.
Arrivals are charged with stay at an airport hotel and forced to remain in isolation for two weeks in the country.
In Australia, travellers are charged between £1,500 and £2,500 for isolation hotel stays of between 14 and 24 days.
Civil servants also discussed Poland’s ‘enhanced isolation’ system, in which people are contacted daily and told to send a picture of themselves where they are isolating.
All passengers are asked to fill out locator forms to ensure they follow lockdown rules, but it new figures reveal Border Force checks just one in 10 of the documents. Pictured: Heathrow’s depature lounge this morning
MPs have called for fines to be ‘ramped up,’ for those who do not follow the UK’s quarantine rules
Passengers flew out of Heathrow today ahead of tighter restrictions that will see Border Force increase spot checks on arrivals tomorrow
Travellers queued to fly out of London’s Heathrow Airport on Sunday as new rules on arrivals begin from 4am tomorrow morning
All arrivals to the UK could face staying in new quarantine hotels under plans to reduce the transmission of new coronavirus variants
The pictures are cross-referenced using GPS data and facial-recognition software and are visited by police within 20 minutes if they fail to comply.
Officials discussed the ideas at a meeting on Thursday and it is understood the technology would be confined to new arrivals, not anyone ordered to self-isolate in the UK.
The current regime announced on Friday in the UK means people arriving will still have to isolate for 10 days even if they have had a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours – or five if they have another negative result during that period.
The ban will be backed by tougher spot checks and will stay in place until at least February 15 as ministers and scientists work out how to manage the threat posed by mutations of the virus.
Yesterday it was revealed that 11 Britons have had one of the variants that have sprung up in Brazil – although it is not yet clear how much of a threat it poses.
Travellers from South America, Portugal, some of central America and South Africa are already barred from coming to the country.
Earlier, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended the timing of the South America border ban amid complaints ministers have been ‘behind the curve’ responding to the threat of new Covid variants.
The ban also covers the Central American state of Panama and Portugal – due to its strong travel links with Brazil – and the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde.
It applies to everyone who has been in the area over the past 10 days – although UK and Irish nationals are exempt – and came into force at 4am.
Two students landed at Manchester Airport with full PPE as they landed from their Dubai flight and are heading to York University
Scientists analysing the Brazilian variant believe the mutations it shares with the new South African strain are associated with a rapid increase in cases in locations where there have already been large outbreaks of the disease.
British and Irish nationals and others with residence rights are exempted from the measures that were backed by the Scottish and Welsh governments, though they must self-isolate for 10 days along with their households on their return.
Mr Shapps described the ban as a ‘precautionary’ measure to ensure the vaccination programme rolling out across the UK was not disrupted by new variants of the virus.
Asked if the Brazilian strain was currently in the country, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Not as far as we are aware, I think, at this stage.
‘There haven’t been any flights that I can see from the last week from Brazil, for example.’