Heathrow demands end to amber list and ALL testing for fully-jabbed

Heathrow demands amber list is scrapped and calls for an end to ALL testing for fully-jabbed travellers as passenger numbers are still down 71%

  • Heathrow has dropped from number one to tenth most busiest airport in Europe
  • Hub is struggling to keep up with rivals such as Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam 
  • August saw 2.2m passengers travel via London airport, down from 7.7m in 2019 

Heathrow Airport is demanding the British Government end all testing for fully-jabbed travellers as it struggles to recuperate business lost to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

It also wants the amber list to be scrapped after August figures revealed it had gone from being the busiest travel hub in Europe in 2019 to the tenth – behind rival cities such as Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt.  

Last month saw 2.2 million passengers travel through the London airport, up from 1.5 million in July, a 48% increase, and the busiest month of the pandemic so far. 

However the numbers are still a far cry from the pre-pandemic era, which saw 7.7 million passengers in August 2019 – meaning numbers are still down by 71%. 

Heathrow urged the Government to ‘streamline’ the rules for international travel, including the scrapping of the amber list and the introduction of a two-tier system.

Under the airport’s proposals, fully vaccinated arrivals from green list locations would no longer be required to take a test, whereas those who are not fully vaccinated would need to take lateral flow tests pre-departure and post-arrival.

Only those who test positive would need to take a more expensive PCR test.

Heathrow Airport (pictured) wants the amber list to be scrapped after August figures revealed it had gone from being the busiest travel hub in Europe in 2019 to the tenth – behind rival cities such as Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt

Hotel quarantine would be retained for arrivals from high-risk red list countries.

Current rules require all those entering the UK to pay for a PCR coronavirus test on or before the second day after their arrival, no matter what their vaccination status. 

Those arriving from countries on the Government’s amber list also have to take a pre-departure test, which can be a PCR or lateral flow test.

The test is not required for green list countries, while those travelling from red list nations must pay to stay in UK quarantine hotels for ten days. 

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: ‘The Government has the tools to protect the UK’s international competitiveness which will boost the economic recovery and achieve its ‘global Britain’ ambitions.

‘If ministers fail to take this opportunity to streamline the travel rules then the UK will fall further behind as trade and tourists will increasingly bypass the UK.’

It comes after the Mail on Sunday revealed the Government is poised to announce that double-jabbed travellers will no longer have to take expensive PCR Covid tests when returning to the UK.

Officials are reportedly working towards scrapping the requirement for green and amber list countries before the half-term holidays next month, providing a huge boost for millions of holidaymakers and the beleaguered travel industry.

Travellers will no longer need Covid tests before leaving for Britain, while the unpopular PCR tests currently required on the second day after arrival will be replaced by cheaper lateral flow tests.

The move will slash the cost of family holidays by hundreds of pounds. Currently, the PCR test can cost more than £100, while the NHS offers free lateral flow tests. 

The plan will be discussed this week by Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove who form the so-called Covid-O committee.

British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle today said Government policy is ‘the biggest single enabler’ of airlines recovering from the virus crisis

The Mail on Sunday revealed the Government is poised to announce that double-jabbed travellers will no longer have to take expensive PCR Covid tests when returning to the UK

The change would also tackle fears that some PCR firms are profiteering and could provide an incentive for people to be vaccinated, as the new rules would only apply to those who have been double jabbed. 

Travellers will still be required to adhere to the testing rules of the country to which they are travelling but most EU countries have abandoned the requirement for PCR tests for the fully vaccinated.

Details for those under the age of 16 arriving in the UK are still being finalised but the intention is for them to be subject to the same system.

Current test rules would remain in place for those not double jabbed. There has been mounting anger about the cost of PCR tests, with a family of four often having to spend £600 or more. 

The Competition and Markets Authority last week reported widespread complaints of ‘dodgy pricing practices to unfair terms to failure to provide tests on time or at all’. 

It comes after Heathrow chairman and CEO Sean Doyle said last week that the traffic light system was not fit for purpose. 

He said: ‘We had the traffic light system over the summer. There was some progress made. But I think it’s not fit for purpose. It needs to be simplified. It needs to be adapted in the same way that we see in Europe and in the US.’ 

Meanwhile Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate called for testing to be removed altogether for travellers who have been double jabbed. 

‘Other countries have done this and their aviation sectors are recovering much faster with bookings in Europe recovering twice as fast as in the UK,’ he said.  

A wider overhaul of the rules is scheduled to take place by October 1.   

It comes after Tory MPs demanded answers from the head of Border Force last week over the Heathrow queuing scandal as pressure mounted on Priti Patel to fix the ‘carnage’ at immigration during yet another week of huge waits.

Paul Lincoln, the agency’s director general, has not commented publicly on the issue in recent weeks, while there are increasing calls for his boss, the Home Secretary, to take meaningful action.

Mr Lincoln, a career civil servant who has also served in the Ministry of Defence and Cabinet Office, had his salary bumped up from £130,000-£135,000 to between £135,000 and £140,000 in the last financial year, accounts show.

‘They need to explain what’s going on’: Border Force chief on £140,000-a-year was made an OBE amid Heathrow chaos 

Paul Lincoln: Director General, Border Force

Paul Lincoln 

Mr Lincoln has had a long career in the civil service, which included serving in the Ministry of Defence and Cabinet Office. 

Immediately prior to this appointment, he was Director General of the Crime, Policing and Fire Group (CPFG), which included overseeing reforms to the police and fire services, according to his official biography. 

Before that, he was Acting Director General of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) in the Home Office, covering terrorism and organised crime. 

Mr Lincoln has been the Home Office’s Gender Equality Champion, and in 2020 spoke about how the civil service could use data to ensure diversity targets were being met. 

Home Office accounts for the financial year 2020-21 reveal he had his salary bumped up from £130,000-£135,000 to between £135,000 and £140,000. 

In May, quizzed about long queues at Heathrow, he said new Covid health checks at the border meant it took five to ten minutes to process every passenger.  

In June, he was made an OBE for services to border security in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. In July, it was announced he will leave his role as director general and be replaced by Tony Eastaugh, a former national counter-terror gold commander.

He has overseen a summer of Heathrow border chaos dating back to at least May, when some passengers reported three-hour waits at passport gates. 

In July, it was announced he will soon leave his current role, a month after being made an OBE for services to border security.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan-Smith and James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire, called on senior officials including Mr Lincoln to explain what is causing the ‘unacceptable’ queues.

‘They should explain what’s happening and why there are delays,’ Mr Duncan-Smith told MailOnline. ‘They are running a public service and they should be open to the public.

‘Number one they’ve got to explain what the problem is and why they weren’t able to cope. Then we can work out what to do about it.’ 

Mr Gray said: ‘The Home Affairs Select Committee needs to get these people in front of them so we can find out exactly what’s going on. It’s their responsibility.

‘The current situation is complete carnage – there’s no bit of it that’s acceptable.

‘I cannot believe that all these people are self-isolating, I cannot believe there are not enough staff, and I cannot believe Heathrow isn’t kicking and screaming about this.’

Travel industry figures have warned the chaotic scenes were blighting the UK’s global reputation while running the risk of a spike in Covid cases – further jeopardising the already crisis-hit tourism sector and stifling business with the post-Brexit UK.

Oxford University academic Ayushi Aruna Agarwal tweeted last week: ‘Hello from the immigration line at London Heathrow.

‘They plan to make us spend 5 hours in close proximity with people from all over the globe here and then self-isolate for 10 days. Great plan.’

A second passenger, Eshita Sharma, posted: ‘Welcome to UK with a veeeeeeery [sic] long queue and no water (or tea).

‘My immigration bubble at Heathrow terminal 2. Should have brought a tent, a sleeping bag, and a mirror to see myself age in real time.’

The Home Office blamed the queues on the need to check Covid documents – in addition to families with young children not being able to use e-gates because the facial recognition technology does not work with under-12s.

But travellers have insisted their Covid-related paperwork has barely been checked by Border Force guards because most of the work is done by airlines.

Travel journalist Simon Calder told MailOnline: ‘All the evidence I am seeing is that the outsourcing of paperwork checks to airlines, ferry firms and train operators means minimal checks coming into the UK.

‘Because the airline has to check the UK-bound ‘fit to fly’ and passenger locator form – which can’t be completed until a post-arrival test is booked – the Border Force, in my experience, is simply wanting to verify identity.

‘Personally I don’t have a problem with this – last week in Berlin I was checked and re-checked by Ryanair staff before my flight to Stansted, and on arrival I was through in one minute flat.

‘But as a result it’s a stretch claiming that the long queues at Heathrow are down to extra checks.’

A Home Office source told MailOnline that while carriers did carry out checks Border Force guards ‘also had a role in scrutinising documents’, including passenger locator forms. 

On Tuesday, Mr Johnson will set out his plan to combat Covid-19 this winter, when a rise in cases is predicted. 

He is expected to say that vaccines will remain the first line of defence and downplay the prospect of another lockdown by repealing several Government powers including the ability to close sectors of the economy, curtail events and gatherings, and detain infectious people.

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