Heathrow Airport is currently seeing “unacceptable” queues of between three and six hours at border control, according to Emma Gilthorpe, its chief operating officer.
Earlier this month, some passengers complained of even waiting up to seven hours with one calling this “inhumane”.
Currently all international arrivals into England must provide proof of a negative Covid test conducted 72 hours prior to departure from their origin country, plus a passenger locator form that details their hotel quarantine, or two test kits for quarantine at home.
Defending the wait times, Border Force have said many passengers are arriving without having purchased the proper testing packages and added that people should only be travelling for limited reasons.
Meanwhile, unions representing enforcement officials said delays were partly caused by social distancing restrictions requiring teams of only 10 immigration officers which prevented more staff being deployed during busy periods.
Nick Jariwalla, director of Border Force at Heathrow, said: “We are in a global health pandemic – it is illegal to go on holiday and people should only be travelling for very limited reasons.”
Further, Jariwalla said passengers were “continuing to arrive without having purchased their mandatory testing packages for the second and eight days of quarantine in the UK. This causes delays as passengers may receive a fine or be subject to other enforcement action.”
Every passenger must purchase a testing package before leaving Heathrow and Mr Jariwalla
said the airport makes “absolutely no apologies for this,” as every check stops the spread of the virus in the country.
Ms Gilthorpe said that before Covid, the queues for EU arrivals were supposed to be 25 minutes while non-EU arrivals faced queues of 45 minutes. The chief operating officer of the airport added that while she expected the length of queues to grow during the pandemic, the current wait times were “unacceptable”.
Heathrow’s self-service gates at passport control are currently closed and Gilthorpe added that she hoped that by the summer, the gates would reopen with a new system to scan passenger locator forms and pre-departure testing results.
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