As coronavirus lockdown eases in the UK, there are fears the long-awaited restart of international travel in England risks being derailed by queues of up to six hours at airports.
According to Chris Garton, Heathrow’s chief solutions officer at Heathrow airport, the few passengers currently arriving at the UK’s busiest airport often spend “well in excess of two hours and up to six hours” getting through passport control.
Responding to questions from the parliament’s transport select committee on Wednesday, Garton said at present, border officials must manually check all arriving passengers’ coronavirus paperwork, including passenger locator forms, detailing where people have been, and proof of a negative Covid test.
The situation was so chaotic that police had been called to deal with “disruption” from exasperated passengers, Garton said.
Going by government’s timetable of lockdown easing, international travel could be allowed from mid-May for holidaymakers leaving English airports under a “traffic light” system, with Covid-19 testing but no self-isolation needed for travellers returning from countries on a “green” list.
Heathrow has said that long queues caused by extensive Covid checks at the airport are becoming “untenable”and also think the cost of required Covid tests needed to be driven down, amid criticism from the travel industry.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps gave more detail on the traffic light system which will see countries graded on their risk. Passengers will have to take the tests before leaving and on returning – even from low-risk “green” countries.