CHAOS reigned at Heathrow Airport with five-hour queues reported over the last few days risking passengers spreading the virus to each other, as the first quarantine hotels opened.
As of yesterday anybody arriving in England from a ‘red list’ country is required to quarantine in a government-approved hotel for a period of 10 days at a cost of £1,750 for a single person.
Anyone who refuses to quarantine in a hotel faces a fine of up to £10,000 and is then made to cough up the original £1,750 on top.
Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer, said yesterday: ‘If you’ve got people getting off planes from the red list countries, then being crammed into areas with passengers who aren’t going into quarantine – and staff as well – you’ve failed at the first hurdle.
‘Our members working at Heathrow, the ground and security staff, have been raising concerns about this for two weeks now. Heathrow just isn’t safe at the moment.’
A spokesperson for the airport has now urged ministers to ensure there are ‘adequate resources and effective processes’ in place to reduce the delays. As many as 8,000 passengers a day could be at risk in the current system.
Checks carried out to identify if a passenger has arrived from a ‘red list’ country are estimated to double the standard arrival time to 15 minutes per person.
The Heathrow spokesperson said: ‘Our key concern remains the ability of Border Force to cope. Queues at the border in recent days of almost five hours are totally unacceptable.
‘Ministers need to ensure there is adequate resource and effective processes at the border to avoid compromising the safety of passengers and those working at the airport, which could necessitate the suspension of some arriving flights.’
The government’s ‘red list’ currently includes several popular holiday destinations, such as the United Arab Emirates, Portugal and Mauritius.
Dave Wiltshire, Secretary of the All Trades Unions Alliance, said: ‘It is not just a question of speaking up for workers’ safety at Heathrow, it is a question of doing something about it.
‘The GMB and other unions such as Unite should tell Heathrow and the government that unless the safety of their members is guaranteed they will stop work and put an end to the whole system.
‘The whole system of hotel quarantine is a form of internment in which people are stuck in their rooms and can’t leave them unless flanked by a security guard who, no doubt, will not have any protection.
‘The TUC and major trade unions have said that workers’ safety is a major concern. They should take action or assume responsibility for whatever happens.’