Tuesday, 15 Jun 2021

Heathrow 'to open red list terminal' to stop variants spreading in border queues

Heathrow Airport plans to open a dedicated terminal for red-list travellers to prevent the spread of new strains of coronavirus.

It comes after chaotic scenes at the west London airport have seen red-list passengers forced to queue next to arrivals from green- and amber-list flights for hours.

And as more than 270,000 people still plan to travel to amber-list countries by the weekend, fears are increasing about the spread of new Covid-19 variants which could cause another wave in the UK.

Pressure has therefore been growing on Heathrow to separate red-list and non-red list arrivals ahead of an expected half-term holiday rush.

Transport secretary Grant Schapps yesterday gave Heathrow until the end of the month to come up with plans to fix this issue.

As the airport is currently only using Terminals 2 and 5, there have been calls for Heathrow to open Terminal 4 for red-list flights.

A spokesperson for Heathrow Airport said that a ‘dedicated arrivals facility’ will be opened in the ‘coming weeks’.

They told the i newspaper: ‘Red list routes will likely be a feature of UK travel for the foreseeable future as countries vaccinate their populations at different rates.

‘We’re adapting Heathrow to this longer-term reality by opening a dedicated arrivals facility in the coming weeks for red list passengers arriving on direct flights.

‘Opening this facility will be logistically very challenging, but our hope is that it will enable Border Force to carry out its duties more efficiently as passenger volumes increase in line with the green list.

‘Until then, the current red list system will remain in place. This system has been designed by the Government and has several layers of protection to keep passengers and colleagues safe – including mandatory negative Covid tests for all international arrivals, mandatory use of face coverings, social distancing, segregation and enhanced cleaning regimes and ventilation in immigration halls.’

It is understood the location of the red-list Heathrow terminal may change based on ‘operational requirements’.

It comes as the Government attempted to clarify confusion this week over whether holidays to amber-list destinations are permitted.

Although environment secretary George Eustice suggested people could go to amber-list countries to visit friends or relatives, Boris Johnson warned people should only do this in ‘extreme circumstances’.

He said people should not be going on holiday to the ‘medium’ risk destinations.

Health secretary Matt Hancock also told a Downing Street press conference: ‘If you want to holiday abroad, that is what the green list is for, or holiday at home.’

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