People returning to UK from ‘red list’ countries could be free to mingle with other travellers at airports and on flights

By Ethan Shone
Monday, 15th February 2021, 12:10 pm
Updated Monday, 15th February 2021, 12:11 pm
People returning to UK from ‘red list’ countries could be free to mingle with other travellers at airports and on flights (Photo: Shutterstock)

There are no protocols in place to prevent people arriving in the UK from “red list” countries from mixing with other travellers in airports, according to The Times.

There are no routine plans in place to separate travellers from “red list” countries from other international travellers, despite expensive plans put in place which will force them to self-isolate once they’ve arrived.

What is the “red list”?

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There are 33 countries on the UK’s “red list” with most on the list due to the assumed prevalence of mutant Covid-19 strains there or in neighbouring countries.

The government has been working on plans to tighten up the UK’s borders in a bid to stop new, potentially more deadly variants of the virus arriving in the UK.

The countries included on the list are mostly in South America and Southern Africa, although the United Arab Emirates and Portugal also feature.

Foreign nationals from the 33 countries will only be permitted to enter the UK at Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Farnborough and Birmingham airports, where hotel accommodation has been organised.

However, concerns have been raised that people from these high-risk countries will be free to mix with other passengers on their flights and in airports.

Heathrow airport has confirmed that it will have separate queues for red list passengers at certain parts of the airport, as well as signs instructing them to comply.

However, on planes and elsewhere in airports, there will be no formal segregation measures in place, with people from “red-list” countries only picked up once they reach the front of the passport control queues.

Part of the difficulty in policing the arrival of people from red list countries is due to the policy of barring all direct flights from these destinations, meaning travellers must pass through a third country in order to fly to the UK.

‘Totally unacceptable’

Officials at Heathrow Airport have warned that a shortage of Border Force staff has meant that queues could be five hours and more.

In a statement, the airport described the situation as “totally unacceptable”.

A spokesperson for the airport said: “Our key concern remains the ability of the Border Force to cope.

“Ministers need to ensure there are adequate resources and effective processes”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The rules coming into force today will bolster the quarantine system and provide another layer of security against new variants at the border”.