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8,000 foreign tourists believed to be coming into UK every day

The Independent logo The Independent 05/04/2021 Matt Mathers
a group of people with luggage at an airport © Provided by The Independent

A traveller whose reason for coming to the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic was to "visit Big Ben" is among thousands of holidaymakers pouring into the country every day, it has been reported.


Of the roughly 20,000 people arriving at the UK's borders each day, around 40 per cent - or 8,000 - are tourists, according to Border Force estimates shared with The Times.

Hundreds are granted holiday visas issued by the Home Office, the Border Force added.

The Home Office says it does not recognise the figures and insists "tough health measures" are being enforced at Britain's airports, train stations and ports.

The revelation comes as Britons face stricter rules on travelling abroad, with those caught breaking the rules to go on holiday liable for fines of up to £5,000.

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According to the Border Force figures, up to 80 or 90 per cent of people passing through Gatwick Airport and the Eurostar terminal at St Pancras station in central London are holidaymakers, compared with between 20 and 30 per cent landing at Heathrow Airport.

Labour shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds branded the figures "completely outrageous" as he called on the government to implement stricter Covid rules at the UK's borders.

“These revelations are completely outrageous and the British people will rightly be furious," he said. “[The government] must act now on Labour’s call for a comprehensive hotel quarantine system.”

A Border Force staff member told The Times that there are hundreds of people arriving in the UK each day "who are basically coming here on a two-week holiday" and that the agency has "no grounds to refuse them".

One visa was granted to a tourist from Peru who wrote on their application form that the reason they had travelled to the UK was to "visit Big Ben".

“As long as they’ve got an address where they say they’ll quarantine, and they’ve completed their pre-departure tests, they’ve got their certificates and everything else, they’ve got means and a return ticket, we’ve got no grounds to refuse them,” the Border Force staff member added.

Under current rules, people travelling to England must present a negative Covid test taken no more than three days before departure, and either quarantine in the place where they are staying or in a managed quarantine hotel facility for 10 days, depending on where they have come from.

People who have been to a "red-list" of 39 countries in the previous 10 days are banned from entering the country.

Minister for Future Borders and Immigration Kevin Foster said: “We do not recognise these figures. We are enforcing tough health measures at the border for the small minority of people coming to the UK, including those entering on a visitor visa for legitimate reasons.

“Since January 2021, we have paused all decisions on visitor visas to applicants applying from a ‘red list’ country or where it is apparent an applicant has visited one of those countries in the last ten days.

“Border Force officers also have the right to refuse entry to any visitor who they believe has travelled to the UK to carry out activities not permitted under current local health restrictions, such as holidays or tourism, or who will not comply with self-isolation and testing requirements.”


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