SOCIAL distancing “isn’t possible” for passengers stuck in Covid test queues at Heathrow Airport, a spokesperson has said.
Travellers coming through the airport have found themselves waiting in huge lines and unable to keep safely apart.
Heathrow Airport has seen passengers unable to properly socially distanceCredit: w8media
The airport has said due to large numbers it isn’t possible for queues to be fully distancedCredit: Reuters
Disgruntled people have reported long waits and tight queues inside terminals.
Yesterday former British ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott posted a photo saying: “T2 Heathrow Friday afternoon. No ventilation. Long delays. Super spreading.”
And today Sky’s Adam Boulton tweeted: “So that’s one hour waiting in the LHR T5 Border queue and I’m only halfway there and was early off the plane.
“People still being held in the corridor. Only 3 officials on.”
But an airport spokesperson told Sky News: “We’ve been clear since last May that social distancing in an airport environment isn’t really possible.
“To put that in context, if you had one aircraft of let’s say 300 people, you’d need a queue about 1km long to socially distance just one aircraft, which is why last summer we mandated face coverings in the airport.”
It means passengers arriving in England by boat, train or plane – including UK nationals – will have to test negative up to 72 hours before leaving the country of departure.
This has resulted in long waits at the border as airport staff check the additional documents.
Earlier this week, some travellers were forced to queue for 90 minutes after landing today as staff checked both the negative coronavirus tests and Passenger Locator Forms.
It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested more may have to be done to “protect our borders” amid fears that coronavirus variants found in South Africa and Brazil may be less susceptible to Covid-19 vaccines.
“We may need to go further to protect our borders,” he said on Friday.
“We don’t want to put that (efforts to control the virus) at risk by having a new variant come back in.”
One passenger said it was “chaotic,” adding: “I just thought it could have been handled better.”
Another person said: “Some people are not very happy with the wait. It was getting very hot in the immigration hall and they were giving out water.”
We’ve been clear since last May that social distancing in an airport environment isn’t really possible.
Heathrow Airport spokesperson
A Government spokesperson said: “We are in a national lockdown to protect the NHS and save lives. People should not be travelling unless absolutely necessary.
“You must have proof of a negative test and a completed passenger locator form before arriving. Border Force have been ramping up enforcement and those not complying could be fined £500.
“It’s ultimately up to individual airports to ensure social distancing on site.”
The long queues were blamed on officials checking the details of each traveller’s Covid test, despite the Department for Transport recommending ‘spot checks’ for people flying into the UK.
However, a Border Force spokesperson said that there are “necessary staff” in place to check the relevant documents of arrivals.
Huge crowds were also spotted at the airport last week as desperate travellers attempted to leave the UK before the new rules were introduced.
Anyone caught entering the UK without a negative test will face a £500 fine, and airlines will also be fined if they are caught not checking for negative test certificates.
There are some exemptions – hauliers, children under 11, and flight and international rail crew are all exempt, along with travellers from the Common Travel Area, which includes the Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
Passengers must wear masks while they queue to show negative testsCredit: Reuters
An airport spokesperson said the amount of passengers makes it almost impossible to stay distancedCredit: w8media
Travellers have to show negative Covid tests before coming through the airportCredit: w8media