People arriving at Heathrow Airport today after Boris Johnson announced new rules for travellers (Pictures: EPA)
Travellers have been seen pouring back into Heathrow Airport today after Boris Johnson announced all new arrivals will have to quarantine from Monday.
The Prime Minister has scrapped the ‘travel corridors’ scheme due to the threat of new strains of Covid coming in from abroad.
His announcement seemingly triggered a rush of people aiming to make it back home before being forced into self-isolation.
The airport was busy with people laden down with large amounts of luggage. One woman passed through the arrivals lounge dressed in a full haz mat suit to ensure she didn’t pick up the infection while travelling.
The scenes weren’t quite as frantic as those seen over the summer when last minute rule changes led to thousands flooding back into the country after abandoning their holidays.
Very few people have been travelling for leisure while the country has been in lockdown and several countries already had travel bans in place because of the UK Covid variant that was first detected in Kent.
Passengers arriving from 60 countries including New Zealand and Sri Lanka – where cases of the virus are very low – had not been expected to quarantine until now.
From 4am on Monday, the rule changes mean arrivals from anywhere in the world will have to isolate for 10 days or test negative after five days.
Travellers arrive at Heathrow Airport earlier today (Picture: EPA)
Travellers have until 4am on Monday to return to the country or face having to isolate (Picture: Mark Thomas/REX)
A Covid-19 test centre at Heathrow Airport (Picture: EPA)
Passengers must prove they have tested negative before flying into the UK (Picture: EPA)
Further rules mean those who are still travelling will have to show evidence of a negative test result taken within 72 hours of their departure time.
This measure was already supposed to be in place by now but its introduction was pushed back.
Labour have welcomed the changes but say they fear the new rules have come too late to stop new strains spreading around the country.
Experts have said it’s ‘likely’ the new super infectious Brazilian strain of Covid is already in the UK.
Passengers arrive back in the country before the deadline (Picture: EPA)
The rules will be in place until at least mid-February (Picture: EPA)
Some have criticised the Government for acting too late (Picture: EPA)
Labour chairwoman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Yvette Cooper, said: ‘Other countries have had stronger measures in place for a long time and I urged the Prime Minister at the Liaison Committee to take urgent action on this.
‘The continued delays in bringing in testing for travellers has been a serious concern, especially in the light of new variants where we need to be able to act swiftly.
‘It has been four weeks since the warnings on the South Africa variant in addition to the warnings on the new strain from Brazil this week.
‘Due to delays in publishing the Government guidance on pre-travel testing, people can still travel home to the UK from Brazil or Portugal or South Africa this weekend without getting a test.
The new rules are intended to try to stop new strains of the virus spreading in the UK (Picture: EPA)
Flights from Brazil and the rest of South America have already been banned (Picture: EPA)
Around 1,000 people a day are currently dying from coronavirus in the UK (Picture: EPA)
‘We need to see more details on the proposals to strengthen checks in the quarantine system. Currently the majority of passengers are not even checked to see if they have filled in their passenger locator forms and we need more follow-up on quarantine.’
Aviation minister Robert Courts insisted the Government has a ‘very strong’ package of measures in place to protect the public from any new coronavirus variants.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the Government was ‘toughening up already tough requirements’ to ensure that new variants do not arrive from abroad while the vaccine is rolled out.
Mr Courts said a ‘total ban’ on travel to the UK would not be right, and that pre-departure testing, passenger locator forms and the quarantine period makes the system ‘robust’.
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].
For more stories like this, check our news page.