Travellers were seen in socially distanced queues at the UK’s biggest airport on the day before new restrictions come in requiring all arrivals to produce a negative test result before they can be let into the country.
Images show people wearing face masks gathering in groups and lining up for tests and check in. Heathrow’s departure board showed that nearly 300 flights had left by 2.30pm on Sunday.
It comes as the UK announced that from Monday it will be shutting all travel corridors – which had exempted arrivals from certain nations having to quarantine – amid fears over new coronavirus variants being brought to the UK from abroad. People who arrive from countries on travel corridors before next week will not have to self-isolate.
Lockdown rules already dramatically restrict international travel and those departing the UK can only do so for a limited number of reasons, according to Government rules.
It is unclear how full the flights in and out of the London airport were on Sunday, and it is likely that some of the pictures are taken during natural peaks in queues, like when passengers are asked to board or go through security.
A Heathrow Airport spokeswoman declined to comment on the pictures.
It is not the first time long queues have been seen at the airport before new government policies were introduced.
In November, ahead of England’s second national lockdown, people also lined up at Heathrow to leave the country before holidays were ‘banned’.
The new policy dropping travel corridors means arrivals from every destination will need to self-isolate for 10 days or receive a negative Covid-19 test result at least five days after entering the UK.
On Thursday, the UK slapped a travel ban on arrivals from the entire continent of South America, due to the emergence of a new strain in Brazil.
This morning, the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab would not rule out bringing in ‘quarantine hotels’ for arrivals to the country.
Government lockdown rules state: ‘If you are in the UK you should not travel abroad.
‘You can only travel abroad if you have a legally permitted reason to leave home.’
Meanwhile, the aviation industry has been pleading with the Government for ‘urgent’ support in a sector already battered from the coronavirus crisis.
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said: ‘The closure of travel corridors is understandable from a public health perspective but this adds to the current near-complete shutdown of the UK’s airports, which are vital for our post-pandemic prosperity.
‘This is making a devastating situation for UK airports and communities relying on the jobs and economic benefits that aviation brings, worse.’
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