Heathrow considering reopening separate terminal for arrivals from red list countries

Apr 21, 2021

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Officials at Heathrow Airport are under pressure to open up one terminal to be used exclusively for passengers arriving from red list countries in an effort to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

It comes amid concern that an influx of travellers could lead to COVID-19 variants being spread inside the airport as people are gathered inside arrivals areas.

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Opening up a new terminal at Heathrow would require a major adjustment for the airport. Only two terminals at Heathrow have been operating since the pandemic began. According to one report from The Guardian, the Home Office has asked that Terminal 4 be used to separate travellers coming from places on the banned list to avoid them mixing with people coming from countries that are considered to be lower risk.

The call for action comes as India becomes the latest country to be added to the red list as cases spike in the country due to a new strain of the virus. On Monday, England’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said India was being added to the red list after 103 cases of the variant first discovered there were found in the U.K. The “vast majority” of those cases are said to have had links to international travel — suggesting some kind of community transmission.

“Heathrow has remained open throughout the pandemic at great cost to ensure that the U.K.’s supply lines are protected and U.K. citizens can return home and we will work with government to ensure that remains the case,” a Heathrow spokesperson said in a statement. “We will explore with ministers the possibility of an economically viable dedicated arrivals facility for passengers from red countries. Our main concern is that U.K. Border Force is able to provide an acceptable level of service to all arriving passengers.”

Countries placed on the red list are deemed high risk, and non-national and non-resident visitors from those countries are banned from entering England. Those travellers who are allowed in must quarantine for 10 days in a hotel approved by the government — costing at least £1,750 per stay.

Related: All 40 countries that are on the UK’s travel red list

There are already fears that England’s expected resumption of non-essential travel on 17 May will cause hours-long delays at the airport as border staff process arrivals and check people’s passports and other documents, such as negative COVID-19 test results. The documents checks are happening manually since all ePassport gates remain shut down.

Featured photo by Ian Vogler – Pool/Getty Images.

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