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Border farce on day one of new hotel quarantine rules

The i 15/02/2021 Jane Clinton
a group of people standing in front of a building: Passenger are escorted out of the arrivals area at Birmingham Airport (Photo: PA/Jacob King) © Provided by The i Passenger are escorted out of the arrivals area at Birmingham Airport (Photo: PA/Jacob King)

Key guidance on the introduction of England’s new quarantine measures was sent to Border Force staff just two-and-a-half hours before the policy came into force.

All immigration control workers received a long email with five attachments, detailing official guidance for carrying out the new border checks at 9.25pm on Sunday, according to The Guardian. The rules then came into effect at midnight.

One member of airport staff working on Monday called the roll-out of the new policy, which requires passengers from 33 “red list” countries to pay for their own stays into isolation in hotels, “an absolute joke”.

According to sources, a significant number of workers would not have seen the email when they started their shifts on Monday, the first day of the new measures.

In the email to Border Force staff which was sent by the Home Office, there is an acknowledgment that the new procedures “will be a lot to absorb” adding there will be “bumps along the way”.

Last week, i reported how Border Force officers were expecting chaos on the first day the quarantine rules were implemented at airports.

The union representing border, immigration and customs workers said many travellers were still getting into the country without valid negative coronavirus test results. And Lucy Moreton, of the ISU, formerly known as the Immigration Service Union, told i the quarantine rules could cause a constant stream of super-spreader events, putting the health of both passengers and enforcement officers at risk.

She said: “It’s possible that in the circumstances in which you cause people to bunch without protection and without social distancing then you have the potential to create a super-spreader event.”

The new system still also relies on people self-declaring if they have visited a ‘red list’ country.

On Monday,the hotel quarantine requirements were branded “ridiculous” after claims that high-risk passengers were able to mix with others travelling to the UK.

One passenger returning from a ‘red list’ country told how people stood “shoulder to shoulder” leaving the plane, before being asked to join a separate queue at passport control.

a group of people sitting in front of a building: Passengers arriving at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 are escorted by security personal (Photo: Getty/Dan Kitwood) © Provided by The i Passengers arriving at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 are escorted by security personal (Photo: Getty/Dan Kitwood)

Wagner Araujo, 43, arrived at Heathrow Airport via Madrid after a trip to Brazil. He was then taken to the nearby Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel with his wife to quarantine.

He told the Mail Online: “The system is ridiculous. It doesn’t make sense. I was on the flight from Madrid surrounded by other passengers who were not from ‘red list’ countries. How can that be safe and a good way to prevent coronavirus from spreading?

“We are all mixing on the plane and then I’m made to go into quarantine… While we were waiting to get off the plane, we were all in the same queue, shoulder to shoulder. What is the point of us going into quarantine now? It’s insane.”

Delivery driver Roger Goncalves, 23, who lives in London, said: “I did my test for coronavirus. The test was negative. Why do I need to stay in my room?”

He explained he had tried to fly back from Brazil last week but his airline cancelled his flight. He branded the £1,750 cost of staying in the Radisson as “crazy”.

On Monday, the chairwoman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Yvette Cooper, criticised the Government for allowing passengers from high-risk nations to mix with other arrivals before quarantining.

She said the Government is “at risk of undermining its own quarantine policy”.

A Home Office source said: “The guidance was out in time for the first planes. There were no issues by midday both in England and in Scotland.”

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