Boris Johnson was today urged to end the ‘moral outrage’ of long queues at Heathrow after a passenger collapsed while waiting seven hours in passport control where it is taking approaching an hour for each person with incomplete forms to be processed, MailOnline can reveal today.
The Home Office has insisted that it has the ‘right level’ of staff despite complaints and chaotic scenes yesterday when the unnamed woman appeared unconscious on the floor of UK arrivals.
The shocking incident and the dangerously long queues has led to experts saying airlines and holiday companies have ‘lost confidence’ that the Government won’t bungle its plan to open up foreign travel from May 17 when the new traffic light system is implemented.
Travel consultant Paul Charles, CEO of the PC Agency, said after the woman collapsed last night: ‘Talking to senior leaders of the travel sector, it’s clear ministers are fast losing the confidence of the sector. The mood has shifted significantly’.
MailOnline understands that only a maximum of 20 of the 40 passport control desks at Heathrow Terminal 2 can be manned because of social distancing, causing huge queues, made worse because e-gates cannot be used because the Government is yet to fully digitise the ‘passenger locator forms’ which travellers must fill in before heading to the UK.
Border Force officials who are sat checking passports are being forced to work in ‘social bubbles’ of four spread out across the enormous complex to reduce the risk of spreading different strains of coronavirus. They cannot be moved from their tasks to alleviate pressure at passport control if they are not already working in the arrivals hall that day.
Senior Tory MP Steve Baker told MailOnline the queues at Heathrow are a ‘moral outrage’. ‘This is a classic example of the state having a too-narrow focus on one aspect of wellbeing. The sheer inhumanity of pushing a person to collapse in a queue after seven hours fills me with horror.
‘Whatever the government does it must do something to end this misery. It cannot possible be right to have human beings standing in queue for seven hours. This is verging deep into dystopian territory now.
Unions claim Heathrow could use all 40 desks if they had installed screens surrounding each booth, rather than the front-facing ones they chose. But they also blame passengers for failing to fill in the right forms, claiming that they are seeing large numbers of people presenting fake covid test certificates.
Lucy Moreton, of the Immigration Services Union, told MailOnline that in pre-covid times the average time a passenger spent at a passport control desk was around two minutes. This is four minutes now if a passenger’s documents are all in order, but ‘at least’ 40 if there is an issue, she said.
She said: ‘The delays are not caused by a lack of staff. If you look at it, we can now only man every other desk for covid reasons. If your bubble is assigned to admin tasks for the day, ordinarily we would hoik them out, but we can’t do that. It makes it look like we are understaffed, when in fact we have the maximum number of people working we can’.
Footage posted online on Monday afternoon shows a woman lying on the floor of Heathrow Airport being tended to by staff – as many more passengers wait to be cleared through the border
Passengers have expressed their anger over the long delays in the arrivals hall of Heathrow. Some passengers have had to wait for up to six hours to clear the border due to a shortage of Border Force staff
Passengers approaching the UK border at Heathrow Airport are facing waits of up to six hours for Border Force officials to check their documentation about their Covid-19 status
Vaccine passports could create ‘two-tier society’: Equalities watchdog warns Covid certificates could break the law and lead to discrimination
Vaccine passports could create a ‘two-tier society’ and discriminate against migrants, ethnic minorities. the poor and anyone else who hasn’t had the jab
Vaccine passports could be unlawful, create a ‘two-tier society’ and discriminate against migrants, ethnic minorities and the poor, Britain’s equalities watchdog has warned the Government.
‘Covid-status certificates’ being considered by ministers to help open up society, get people back into work or away on holiday despite concerns from Boris Johnson‘s own MPs that they will be ‘intrusive, costly and unnecessary’.
Recent polling has found the majority of Britons back their use – especially for foreign holidays – but there are wider concerns that they could be used in every facet of life including to get on public transport, into shops, pubs and restaurants.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has today piled more pressure on the PM and told the Cabinet Office that while they are a ‘proportionate’ way of easing restrictions, they could also exclude people from everyday life.
And they warned that a ‘no jab, no job’ policy could be illegal before the entire population is offered a jab, while plans to force all care workers to be vaccinated could also be subject to a legal challenge.
The EHRC’s submission, seen by the Guardian, says they could cause ‘indirect discrimination’, citing recent migrants to the UK, people from black and minority ethnic groups or those from poorer backgrounds.
‘There is a risk of unlawful discrimination if decisions taken in this process disadvantage people with protected characteristics who have not received, or are not able to receive, the vaccine, unless they can be shown to be justified,’ it said.
She said that Heathrow Terminal has 40 passport control desks, but because they only have front screens, the number of desks is halved, creating delays, being added to because officers have to check 100 per cent of forms – passports, passenger locator forms and negative Covid test results – on all arrivals, and many are not complying.
Those who attempt to evade quarantine or testing by providing false information face a fine of up to £10,000, and up to 10 years in prison, while those who do not book a hotel place before arriving in England face a £4,000 fine.
Ms Moreton said: The cause of the delays is because people are not complying. We are seeing a lot of people saying was “nobody told them” or “it doesn’t apply to me”.
‘The Government should put more pressure on airlines to make sure that all the documents are there and correct before people fly. Why are these people boarding without the carrier making sure they have the documentation they need? It would not solve it, but it would make the queues shorter’.
She added: ‘If you arrived in pre-covid times it would be two minutes at the desk usually, and is four minutes now if the documents are correct. But if they don’t have everything then you’re in trouble. Just to book the passenger covid tests, that drives it to 40 minutes at least, if not much longer. You would have queues, but you’d have them much shorter.
‘It is not caused by a lack of staff. If you look at it, we only man every other desk for covid reasons. If your bubble is assigned to admin, ordinarily we would hoik them out, but we can’t do that to keep thinks covid safe.
‘Heathrow chose to not to put wraparound screens – that means you could man every desk. The front ones are not really as effective, passengers end up leaning around it.
‘If they haven’t booked their home tests, you have to get off the desk, go into the back office and book them. They’re all there and doing something, but because they have to walk away it looks like they’re not all manned’.
She added: ‘The Government can choose two routes. Either remove the requirement for 100 per cent checks, with all the attendant risk to national Covid security. Or compel carriers to ensure that no one arrives in the UK without having complied with the relevant requirements.’
A passenger collapsed at Heathrow Airport following a ‘seven-hour wait’ as travellers are forced to queue up due to coronavirus checks at the border, it has been claimed.
Around 800 border staff are working at Heathrow and that all are currently in work subject to the normal reasons for absence, according to the Immigration Services Union (ISU).
Footage posted online on Monday afternoon shows a woman lying on the floor of Heathrow Airport being tended to by staff – as many more passengers wait to be cleared through the border.
The video’s uploader claims the woman had collapsed following a seven-hour wait for entry clearance.
Travellers often arrived at the airport without the right documentation and that pre-pandemic a non-contentious entry for someone with the right of residence would have been two minutes if they did not use the eGates.
According to Heathrow Airport, many of the delays relate to the inspection of Passenger Locator Forms which are necessary for all travellers arriving in the UK
Heathrow chief solutions officer Chris Garton said the situation was ‘untenable’
Meanwhile, Edinburgh Airport has called on the Scottish government for support claiming that passengers would be forced to fly in and out of England if nothing is done to help the airline industry
The £90m snooper army: Government hires private contractor Mitie to carry out 10,000 home visits every day to check if passengers are in quarantine after flying back to UK from overseas
Priti Patel has stepped up the Government’s crackdown on mandatory quarantine for overseas arrivals by hiring a private firm to do up to 10,000 house checks per day
Priti Patel has stepped up the Government’s crackdown on mandatory quarantine for overseas arrivals by hiring a firm to do up to 10,000 house checks per day.
Mitie has been tasked by the Home Office to catch flouters failing to undergo their required period of isolation.
Their extra manpower will dramatically increase the capacity for daily home visits, which at present number about 1,000 and are carried out by police.
The new contract awarded to outsourcing giant Mitie allows a total spend of up to £90million.
Under tight border rules to insulate from worrying variants and infection spikes in Europe, all overseas arrivals must go into self-isolation for 10 days, which can be shortened by testing negative.
For people arriving from countries on the Department for Transport’s red list, this self-isolation must be done in Government-approved hotels. Fines start at £1,000 and jump to £10,000 for repeated rule-breaking.
Mitie enforcers will conduct checks on travellers who are required to self-isolate at home, but will not do hotel visits.
A Government source said: ‘The number of operatives will vary depending on the number of visits needed, and the locations of the visits.
‘If appropriate, Mitie staff may visit certain travellers more than once, if they are suspected of breaching their requirement to self-isolate.’
Post-pandemic with the right paperwork, that transaction time is five minutes, the ISU representative alleged – and that without the right paperwork that time shoots up to at least 30 minutes.
Chris Garton, the chief solutions officer for the London airport, has told MPs ‘the situation is becoming untenable’, with wait times in recent days being ‘well in excess of two hours and up to six hours’.
Giving evidence to the Commons Transport Select Committee, he warned: ‘We’re starting to see disruption in some of the arriving passengers. If you’re made to queue for two or three hours, it’s not something you want to do, and we’re even having to involve the police service to help us.’
Mr Garton went on: ‘What’s happened is a whole host of new checks – 100 per cent checking of everybody – has been introduced, and that obviously has put a tremendous burden on the officers who work at the border. The Home Office has not provided them with additional officers.’
When asked to respond to the ISU’s claims, a Home Office spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘We are in a global health pandemic – people should not be travelling unless absolutely necessary.
‘Border Force has ensured it has the right level of resources to check that passengers are compliant with our border health measures.
‘Queues and wait times will currently be longer, as it is vital that we undertake thorough checks at the border and due to the fact that some passengers have not completed the necessary requirements to enter the UK, such as purchasing covid testing packages or booking their hotel quarantine in advance.’
He told the committee the amount of resources for processing passengers at the border ‘always was a problem’, but the coronavirus pandemic ‘has just made that so much worse than it was before’.
He continued: ‘We want to see that bottleneck removed as quickly as possible. It’s a problem today, it will become a much bigger problem after May 17 (when foreign leisure travel from England could resume).’
Mr Garton said the ‘solution’ is to enable passengers to ensure their entry to the UK is ‘assured’ before they begin their journey. Errors on passenger locator forms should be spotted and corrected in advance, and eGates should be able to check the documents automatically, he told MPs.
This would allow arriving travellers to ‘flow as you would normally through the eGates rather than having to line up and present your paperwork to a rather overstretched border official’, Mr Garton added.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman defended the queues, saying Border Force is ‘completing thorough checks of every arriving passenger’ which is ‘the approach the public would expect’.
He added that the Government will ensure there are ‘sufficient measures there and resources available’ when international leisure travel resumes.
Downing Street insisted that resources would be put in place to ensure airports can cope with increased passenger numbers when international travel resumes.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘Whatever measures we set out from May 17 at the earliest, we’ll ensure that there are sufficient measures there and resources available.’
Meanwhile, in Scotland, Edinburgh Airport bosses warned of a reduction in the number of direct flights to Scotland without a covid recovery plan – leaving people reliant on airports in England.
Gordon Dewar, chief executive at Edinburgh Airport, called for immediate action from the Scottish Government to engage with airports and airlines for a recovery plan.
Mr Dewar said uncertainty around Scottish airports could lead to a reduction in the number of direct flights and leave people reliant on airports in other parts of the UK.
He highlighted the industry supports thousands of jobs and generates billions of pounds for the Scottish economy every year. In 2019, Edinburgh Airport generated £1.4billion Gross Value Added and 28,000 jobs in the Scottish economy.
In February Heathrow experienced huge delays at the border caused by ‘rigid and inflexible’ social bubbles created to apparently prevent the spread of new variants.
MailOnline revealed that Emma Moore, the chief operating officer of Border Force, had been responsible for organising the workforce into 12-person bubbles. She was subsequently appointed to the role of Trace Divisional Director with NHS Test and Trace, the Government’s virus tracker.
The bubble policy first came into force on December 31 and was blamed for the mayhem seen at the border as thousands of passengers tried to clear passport checks ahead of the quarantine hotel system.
The ISU accused Ms Moore of ignoring their concerns that the scheme was ‘arbitrary’ and would overwhelm Border Force officials doing customs checks. An ISU spokeswoman also called the bubbles ‘needless’, because Heathrow had already received its three-star Covid-secure certification.
The Department of Health said: ‘Emma Moore has been appointed to the role of Trace Divisional Director. She joins us from her current role as Chief Operating Officer of Border Force, following a competitive hiring process. Emma has a wealth of experience across the public and private sectors to bring to this role.’
Police raid on hotel quarantine-buster: The moment officers batter down door and arrest man who refused to stay in mandatory £1,750 isolation and fled after just hours following his return to UK from Dubai
Dramatic footage shows the moment police bust down the door of a British man who came back from Bahrain and ‘refused to quarantine in a hotel’.
Football coach Mathew Owens, 30, left Bahrain on April 9, having worked for one of the country’s premier league clubs. He made two transfers on his return journey – the first to Abu Dhabi, then on to Frankfurt before finally flying back to Manchester.
Mr Owens claims he had phoned the consulate in Bahrain asking if he could travel through Abu Dhabi – which is on the travel ‘red list’ – and they told him that he would be ‘fine’ as long as he didn’t leave the airport at any point.
After arriving in Manchester, police then insisted they would escort him to a coach that would take him all the way to Birmingham, he said.
Once there, he says he refused to supply his details to G4S, and said he would leave as soon as he could, despite warnings of a £10,000 fine. He then phoned his parents, who made the two-hour trip from Liverpool, and they drove home, Mr Owens said.
He claims details from his passport, phone and email address were used to check him into the hotel without his knowledge.
Merseyside Police this morning told MailOnline they stood by their actions and were protecting the public.
Doorbell footage, posted online on April 12, shows the moment officers knock on his front door, before one uses a battering ram to smash his way in to arrest Mr Owens for allegedly breaching Covid restrictions.
In another one-minute clip, filmed by his mother Andrea, officers are seen breaking glass and entering a house before walking upstairs and demanding to know where ‘Martin’ is, before arresting Mr Owens.
Doorbell footage shows the moment officers knock on his door, before one uses a battering ram to smash his way in
The woman filming from the top of the staircase continually tells them ‘You’re here to protect us’, asking the officers ‘Are you standing under your oath?’
A male officer wearing a pale blue face mask asks where ‘Martin’ is, and the woman filming says ‘he’s isolating’.
Police then handcuff Mr Owens as a female officer tells him: ‘Martin, you’re under arrest for a breach of Covid regulations, you’ve failed to quarantine in a designated hotel when instructed to do so.
‘You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you fail to mention something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence. Do you understand?’
As the camera pans away, a male voice can be heard ‘No I don’t understand’ before the clip finishes.
Doorbell footage shows the moment officers knock on his door, before one uses a battering ram to smash his way in to arrest him for allegedly breaching Covid restrictions
The woman filming from the top of the staircase continually tells them ‘You’re here to protect us’, asking the officers ‘Are you standing under your oath?’
Mrs Owens posted footage on social media, blasting police for ‘not even know(ing) my son’s name’.
MailOnline has contacted police for comment.
Mr Owens is now in quarantine at the Crowne Plaza in Birmingham city centre. Speaking from his hotel room, he said: ‘I’m amazed at what has happened.
‘It makes no sense at all. If they were going to fine me, then so be it but what sense does it make to take me out of the controlled quarantined environment of my home, to mix with other people at the police station, and then to send me to Birmingham to mix with even more people.
‘They also left my mum, who is disabled and vulnerable, without a front door.’
Merseyside Police officers arrived at his home in Bootle, Liverpool, on Monday at 3.30pm.
Mr Owens said: ‘The police said they were there on behalf of Border Force. I told them I was isolating and had just sent off my first Covid test, which has returned negative.
‘I was two days in and asked them what sense did it make to take me out of this environment at this stage.
‘They just said they were there on behalf of Border Force and I needed to go to a hotel.
‘We have a video doorbell and we could hear officers radioing back describing the door, so it was clear they were planning to break it down.
‘I opened the window and asked if they had a warrant and was told they didn’t need one.
‘Then more officers arrived with equipment to break-in.
‘As they’ve forced entry, one of the officers cut himself, leaving blood on the wall and the floor.
‘As they were coming up the stairs, they are shouting ”Martin, Martin” but my name is Mathew.
‘When they went upstairs, one officer just pushed my mum out to the side.
‘I wasn’t particularly scared when I was arrested. I was just astonished that they didn’t need a warrant and could smash the door down.
Mr Owens had left Bahrain on April 9, where he had been working as a football coach for one of the country’s premier league clubs
‘What astonished me even more was that I wasn’t charged with anything. They literally broke into my house to hold me and pass me back to G4S.
‘It just makes zero sense to take me out of an isolated environment to a police station, then to the hotel.
‘The whole thing is just ludicrous.’
Mr Owens had left Bahrain on April 9, where he had been working as a football coach for one of the country’s premier league clubs, after new restrictions meant he could only leave his house for essential shopping.
He said: ‘Bahrain’s shops, bars and restaurants were set to re-open after Ramadan, but you could only go out if you’d had the vaccine or had recovered from Covid. I’d had neither and there wouldn’t be any enjoyment for me staying so I decided to come home.’
Mr Owens booked a ticket home – costing £650 – catching connecting flights in Abu Dhabi and Frankfurt before arriving in Manchester.
He said: ‘I knew Abu Dhabi was on the red list, so I contacted the consulate to ensure that I was fine to travel there without having to quarantine.
‘I was told that because I’d not stepped foot in Abu Dhabi and was just transferring through, I was fine.
‘I literally walked off the plane, had my bags checked and went to the next gate. I was there for an hour-and-a-half.’
Mr Owens passed through Frankfurt, showing officials his passenger locator form, before boarding a flight to Manchester.
His ordeal began when he landed in Manchester and headed to passport control.
He said: ‘I showed the border control officer my forms and told him where I’d travelled from and where I was going.
‘The officer told me because Abu Dhabi was on the red list, I’d have to be booked into a quarantine hotel for 10 days and the closest one was Birmingham.
‘I told him that wasn’t the advice I’d received. I was then taken to a desk where I signed paperwork stating where I’d travelled from and that I could be subject to a £10,000 fine.
‘I signed everything until I was given a form where I had to agree to one of the control quarantined hotels and pay £1,750 and allow G4S to escort me away.
‘This is when I refused to give me consent.’
Mr Owens was taken to Copy Lane Police Station where G4S staff picked him up in a taxi and returned him back to the hotel
Mr Owens then claims he was threatened with being held in a police cell for 10 days if he did not sign the form.
He added: ‘They were trying to scare me but I refused again.’
After being detained for five hours in the airport, he was forced on to a coach and driven to the Crowne Plaza hotel, in Birmingham.
Mr Owens said: ‘There was just me and three G4S staff on the coach. Officers watched the coach leave and I was given a police escort out of Manchester.
‘During the journey, they wouldn’t stop to let me use the toilet or use the toilet on board because of Covid.’
Two hours later, he arrived at the hotel where he quickly logged on to the wifi so he could make a WhatsApp phone call to his parents.
Mr Owens handed the forms he had refused to sign to hotel staff, and waited in the reception until a family member arrived to take him home on Saturday at 1.4am.
Police officers called at his home address at 9am the same day but left when no one answered the door.
Mr Owens said: ‘We hadn’t got home until 5am so we were all in bed.
‘We didn’t hear anything until Monday when officers arrived to take me back to Birmingham.’
He was taken to Copy Lane Police Station where G4S staff picked him up in a taxi and returned him back to the hotel.
Mr Owens said: ‘This time hotel staff phoned the police. I was told that if I didn’t sign the consent form, I’d be arrested and hauled to court.
‘I didn’t want that or a criminal record, so I signed in under duress.
‘Now I am stuck here and the hotel is awful.
‘The room is a complete mess. It is filthy. It is dusty and they haven’t cleaned it since the last person was in it.
‘The G4S staff aren’t wearing gloves, nothing is being wiped down and I’d be safer at home.’
Mr Owens hopes he will be allowed home on Monday.
He added: ‘I can’t wait to get out of here.’
Merseyside Police told MailOnline it was notified a male, who had returned to the UK from Abu Dhabi on April 9, had absconded from an official Covid quarantine facility in the early hours of April 10 and returned to an address on Merseyside.
By 3pm on April 12, after numerous other attempts, it said officers attended in Netherton to speak to the male.
Police say he refused to answer the door of the property and officers gained entry using powers under the Health Protection Act 2020.
They said a 30-year-old man was cautioned and arrested for entering the UK and failing to isolate in a designated hotel, in breach of Covid-19 legislation.
He was issued with a Covid fine and handed over to Border Force authorities to be conveyed back to quarantine.
Chief Inspector Chris Barnes said: ‘Merseyside Police was notified by the Border Force of a breach of Covid regulations in relation to a male who had left an official quarantine facility after returning to the UK from Abu Dhabi.
‘The man refused to engage with officers and officers gained entry to the property and arrested him. He was then returned to quarantine.
‘The majority of people who have chosen to travel during the pandemic have accepted that they must quarantine upon their return to prevent the potential spread of the Coronavirus and protect themselves and other people.
‘Merseyside Police has played its part in educating people about the Covid regulations and will continue to work with our partners to deal with those people who choose to flout the rules.’