Travel News

Heathrow is busy with people fleeing UK ahead of new rules tomorrow - DAILY MAIL UK

JANUARY 17, 2021

BY  Luke May

Travellers have started to flown into the UK as they try to beat a new Covid crackdown that begins at 4am tomorrow - with quarantine hotels and facial recognition technology lined up to ensure people isolate. 

Arrivals could be seen hugging loved ones as they landed at Heathrow this afternoon, following a busy morning in the departures lounge.  

Earlier today passengers were queuing in the departures lounge, as a travel consultant warned there were 'bumpy days ahead,' when new travel rules come into place. 

Depatures were expected to be busier as business travellers fly-out on Sundays ahead of the working week. 

More arrivals are expected later this evening 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.

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.'

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. 

  • a group of people walking down the street: Testing facilities have been set up at Heathrow Airport, offering arrivals the chance to cut the number of quarantine days from 10 to five
  • a group of people with luggage at an airport: 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
  • a group of people on a sidewalk: 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

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.

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.

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