Border Force officers 'told not to make Covid checks on UK arrivals'
Border Force officers ‘are told NOT to make Covid checks on arrivals from green and amber list countries in bid to reduce airport queues’, leaked documents reveal
- Arrivals currently have to provide a negative Covid test and fill out a locator form
- But leaked document shows officials have now been told not to routinely check
- Passenger Locator Forms still have to be checked by airlines prior to departure
- The move is to reduce the chance of backlogs at the border due to form checks
- It comes after passengers queues for 90 minutes at Heathrow Airport Terminal 5
- A Government blunder meant hundreds filled out their locator forms incorrectly
What do arrivals from green and amber list countries need to do before they travel?
– You must take a Covid test before you travel. This can be a PCR, Lamp or anti-gen but must meet specific requirements – of ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml.
– You must book and pay for a ‘Day 2’ Covid test to be taken two days after your arrival in the UK.
– You must fill out a Passenger Locator Form within 48 hours of travel
All of the above. PLUS:
– If you are NOT double vaccinated you must quarantine at home for at least 10 days. You can be released earlier if you take part in the Test and Release scheme.
– If you ARE double vaccinated you will need to declare that you have been fully UK vaccinated on your passenger locator form or you are under 18 and resident in the UK. You will need to show proof of your vaccination status to your carrier (ferry, airline or train) when you travel.
Border Force officers have been told they no longer need to make Covid checks on arrivals in the UK in a bid to reduce airport queues, it has been reported.
According to a leaked report officials have been told they no longer have to ‘routinely’ check passengers arriving from green and amber list countries.
Arrivals currently have to provide a negative Covid test taken before departure and must complete a Passenger Locator Form within 48 hours of departure to the UK.
But, as of Monday just gone, Border Force officials will no longer routinely check passengers have these documents, according to the leaked document, first reported by the Guardian.
Passport e-gates will also no longer refer passengers to in-person checks by Border Force officers if a passenger locator form is not found, the paper reports.
Passenger Locator Forms are still checked by airlines ahead of travel, while the Government insists arrivals who do not comply still run the risk of being fined.
The change in policy also does not impact on red list arrivals, who must isolate in designated quarantine hotels for 10 days, at the cost of £1750, after landing in the UK.
The move, aimed at reducing queues at the border, comes after Heathrow Terminal 5’s passport control hall was thrown into chaos on Monday night due to a glitch in the e-gate system.
Thousands of frustrated passengers were left queuing in the Border hall on Monday night after a Government blunder led passengers to fill out their Passenger Locator Forms incorrectly.
The forms sparked a wave of rejections at the e-gates, with Border Force officials eventually closing them to prevent further disruption.
The Immigration Services Union (ISU) last night confirmed to the Guardian that the leak to the Guardian was accurate.
Border Force officers have been told they no longer have to make Covid checks on arrivals in the UK in a bid to reduce airport queues, it has been reported. Pictured: There was chaos at Heathrow Airport on Monday night after passengers faced an issue with the e-gates – caused by a Government blunder
Passport e-gates will also no longer refer passengers to in-person checks by Border Force officers if a passenger locator form is not found, the paper reports
Arrivals currently have to provide a negative Covid tests taken before departure and must complete a Passenger Locator Form (pictured) within 48 hours of departure to the UK
Lucy Moreton, professional officer for the ISU, which represents border immigration and customs staff in the UK, said Border Force staff had also been told not to challenge Covid documentation ‘even if it is recorded on the system that the documentation has not been completed’.
Ms Moreton told the BBC: ‘Ultimately this is a political decision. Certainly, it will reduce queue times significantly and hopefully also the level of verbal abuse to which Border Force staff are subject.
‘That is welcome to us. The impact on the UK’s Covid security is ultimately a scientific determination.’
A Government spokesman told MailOnline: ‘Our utmost priority is protecting the health of the public and our enhanced borders regime is helping reduce the risk of new variants being transmitted.
‘All passenger locator forms are still being checked by carriers, as they are legally required to do, and to suggest otherwise is wrong.
‘This legal requirement on carriers is underpinned by a robust compliance regime, which is overseen by regulators.
How the Heathrow Terminal 5 border hall chaos unfolded…
1) On Monday the Government’s new double-jabbed exemption for arrivals to the UK from Amber List countries comes into force. It means fully vaccinated travellers from Amber List countries no longer have to self-isolate for up to 10 days.
2) Passengers have to fill out a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) within 48 hours of travel.
3) Holidaymakers in Amber List countries filling out their PLFs ahead of Monday go on to the Government’s website and find there is no option for a double-jab exemption. The Government has not updated the form ahead of Monday’s change to travel rules.
4) Instead, confused passengers click a separate ‘exemptions’ section – which takes them to an area for special quarantine exemptions.
5) These exemptions flag up at e-gates because they have to be checked by Border Force officers.
6) On Monday night a flood of passengers arrive at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 with incorrectly filled out forms.
7) Many hundreds are rejected at the e-gates – sparking a backlog at the border.
8) Passengers there on the night say there are ‘only four’ Border Force officials. A queue of around 2,000 passengers forms at the passport hall.
9) Border Force officials decide to close the e-gates to avoid any further confusion and backlog.
10) The Passenger Form Locator is updated following the chaos. The Government also says it has beefed up staffing numbers to avoid further backlogs.
‘Compliance with these rules is essential in order to protect the population from new variants of Covid-19, and so there will be tough fines for those who do not follow the rules.’
It comes as the Government sparked chaos at a Heathrow border hall on Monday night after failing to update Passenger Locator Forms ahead of its ‘Freedom Day’ rule changes – resulting in double-jabbed Britons being rejected at e-gates.
Holidaymakers arriving at Terminal 5 were left queueing for more than 90 minutes yesterday after the Government’s ‘out-of-date’ form resulted in ‘confused’ passengers filling them out wrong.
It meant passengers were told to go to the ‘four’ Border Force staff manning the desks, sparking a build of frustrated passengers up in the Terminal’s passport hall last night.
The issue was caused when holidaymakers flying back to the UK on Monday from Amber List countries went to fill out their Passenger Locator Forms ahead of their journey.
But the travel quarantine rules changed on ‘Freedom Day’ Monday to allow double-jabbed Britons to return to the UK without having to self-isolate for up to 10 days.
Passenger locator forms need to be filled out two days in advance of travel. But those filling out the forms on Sunday, to travel on Monday, were left with the pre-‘Freedom Day’ options – arrival from a green list country or quarantine.
There was another option of an ‘exempt list’ – but these are only for special exemptions. ‘Confused’ double-jabbed passengers, unable to see an option for their vaccination exemption ended up clicking this section.
And this led to confusion at the e-gates – because these exemptions must be checked by a Border Force officials.
It meant hundreds of passengers, who thought they had filled in their forms correctly, being rejected and told to go to a manned desk.
The situation at one point became so bad that Border Force officials closed off the e-gates and told people to go to manned desks instead – leading to a 2,000 strong queue last night.
Reports suggest that Border Force staff ended up encouraging to ‘lie’ on their forms in order to get through – though this has been denied by the Home Office. The forms have also been updated since to make it ‘clearer’ for double-jabbed Amber List arrivals who are able to avoid quarantine.
The chaos comes four weeks after e-gates were reopened at Heathrow’s Terminals 2 and 5 following an upgrade to allow the machines to wave-through passengers from Green and Amber List countries.
One person caught up in last night’s chaos said the situation was ‘totally unacceptable’, while another exasperated passenger branded it ‘ridiculous’.
Last night passengers today took to social media to slam the lack of border staff, with one revealing that they had spent up to an hour and 45 minutes queuing at Terminal 5’s passport hall.
One Twitter user said: ‘Hi Heathrow. Is it because of the pingdemic that there’s thousands at border control and maybe 3 staff checking us in?! By my calculations I’m here until 2am. There’s babies toddlers & elderly in the queue.’
It is believed just four Border Force officials were left manning Terminal 5 passport hall last night when as many as 2,000 passengers arrived. Picture: Passengers queue at Heathrow Airport last night
Passengers at the airport say the e-gates were closed last night, while there were ‘just four’ Border Force staff working
Passenger locator forms need to be filled out two days in advance of travel. But those filling out the forms on Sunday, to travel on Monday, were left with the pre-‘Freedom Day’ options – arrival from a green list country or quarantine. Pictured: The old form passengers were faced with at the weekend
The Government has since updated the form to include the option: ‘I need to self-isolate when I arrive in the UK, I have only been in green list countries or islands, or I was full vaccinated in the UK
US officials urge Americans not to travel to UK due to spike in Delta variant
The US State Department is advising Americans not to travel to the United Kingdom as the Delta variant of COVID-19 surges.
The move by the State Department means that Britain is now at the highest warning level possible – ‘do not travel’ – on a four-part ranking.
First is ‘exercise normal precautions’; second is ‘exercise increased caution’; then comes ‘reconsider travel’.
The warning for Britain has fluctuated between Level 3 ‘reconsider travel’, and Level 4 ‘do not travel’, several times this year already.
In May, the US government had lowered the U.K. to a Level 3 advisory rating.
The latest upgrade comes as COVID cases across the U.K. soared by 52 per cent week-on-week, with the number of deaths falling slightly.
The U.K. on Sunday recorded 48,161 COVID cases – up from the 31,772 cases recorded last Sunday.
The State Department’s decision comes hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its own advice, recommending that U.S. citizens do not visit the U.K.
They said in a follow-up tweet: ‘There is a palette of water cans in the middle of the queue where people go help themselves as they go since we’re all here for hours.
‘Kids crying. The occasional shouts for opening more gates. People about to miss their connections. It’s such a s***show.
‘No e gates tonight of course. This is dumb,’ before saying: ‘MADE IT. Only 1h45 in a queue that could have been completely avoided with proper staffing.’
Another wrote: ‘So many people – including elderly and young children waiting for the border police to check their documents…. why there not more officers here?
‘Totally unacceptable for an airport like Heathrow. This is so late now, hope to catch the last train.’
It comes as the Telegraph last week reported a security staff shortage at Heathrow due to staff being ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid App.
According to the paper, the Border Force were down 120 security personnel last Monday after staff were told to self-isolate.
Passengers reportedly queued for up to 150 minutes due to the border staffing shortfall.
Extra security staff were later drafted in to redress the shortfall, Heathrow said.
Meanwhile, the Heathrow e-gates reopened at Terminals 2 and 5 last month after being closed for upgrades – with more due to be reopened later this summer following testing.
The e-gates were adapted earlier this year so they can be used by passengers returning from green or amber list countries.
But, according to the Telegraph, whose Travel correspondent John Arlidge was caught in last night’s chaos, the e-gates had trouble determining the new quarantine rules – because the option of not having to quarantine was not given on the Passenger Locator Form.
He wrote: ‘There is currently no button on the UK’s Passenger Locator Form (PFL) to declare that you are exempt from self-isolation because you are fully double vaccinated and coming from an amber country.
‘If you tell the truth on the locator form and say you are exempt and tick the ‘Government / Assembly Approved’ reason – which is the only option that makes any sense – you cannot use the E-gates.’
Government ‘did not act unlawfully’ over traffic light system, judge rules
The UK Government did not act unlawfully over its travel traffic light system, a judge has today ruled.
In a High Court battle, brought by Manchester Airports Group and backed by a number of airlines, the judge said the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, acted ‘lawfully’ in implementing the system.
A judge also ruled that the Government did not have to disclose more information on how it reaches decisions over its travel rules.
Those behind the legal challenge today said in a joint statement: ‘British businesses and consumers deserve to understand how the Government takes decisions on the traffic light system so that they can book their travel with confidence.’
Businesses included in the High Court challenge include budget airlines easyJet and Ryanair.
It comes as the Government on Monday eased travel restrictions by dropping the requirement for double-jabbed passengers arriving in the UK from amber-list countries.
As of 4am on Monday, July 19, passengers from Amber List countries are no longer required to undertake an up-to-day 10-day home quarantine.
The rule does not apply to Amber List France, which was put on what is being dubbed the ‘Amber Plus’ list due to rising cases of the Beta (South African) variant.
The rules were last night branded ‘excessive’ by a French minister Clement Beaune, who told French channel BFM TV: ‘It seems to us that the measures taken by the UK are not entirely based on scientific foundations.’
Meanwhile, the Balearic islands were also moved from the UK’s quarantine free Green List to the Amber List.
The sudden move – which came just weeks after the Balearics were moved on to the Green List – sparked unvaccinated Britons holidaying in the likes of Mallorca and Ibiza to make a mad dash for the airports in order to make it back to the UK before the rule change.
Bulgaria and Croatia went the other way, going from amber to green, along with Taiwan and Hong Kong.
However Bulgaria has since banned UK holidaymakers by adding Britain to its ‘red zone’ list – which means only essential journeys can be made.
A Heathrow spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘We welcome the move to allow fully vaccinated Brits to travel to amber list destinations without the need to quarantine on return.
‘We understand the Government has now rectified some confusion regarding the use of eGates and exemption status by amending the language used on the Passenger Locator Form to provide further clarity, improving the experience at the border.’
A Government spokesperson said: ‘Our utmost priority is protecting the safety and health of the public. That means, occasionally, passengers will need to accept an increase in the time taken to cross the border.
‘We are aware that a number of passengers arriving from amber list countries encountered difficulties passing through e-gates as the option they selected meant they needed to be assessed by an officer rather than use eGates.
‘We have now updated our form so it is clearer for those who do not need to quarantine and we continue to review and modify our approach to ensure full compliance with border and biosecurity checks.’
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