Heathrow chiefs warn of quarantine chaos as ‘significant gaps’ remain

Britain’s biggest airport has warned Boris Johnson it is not ready to roll out the Government’s scheme to force travellers to quarantine in hotels from tomorrow morning.

The majority of those required to quarantine will arrive at Heathrow, but its bosses yesterday said that ‘significant gaps’ about how the scheme would operate remain.

Immigration officials also predicted long queues at the border while the Government faced accusations of failing to conduct risk assessments to ensure staff at the quarantine hotels were protected from infection.

The majority of those required to quarantine will arrive at Heathrow, but its bosses yesterday said that ‘significant gaps’ about how the scheme would operate remain. A plane is seen near Heathrow above the Novotel Hotel, which is participating in the scheme

The majority of those required to quarantine will arrive at Heathrow, but its bosses yesterday said that ‘significant gaps’ about how the scheme would operate remain. A plane is seen near Heathrow above the Novotel Hotel, which is participating in the scheme

In an effort to avert chaos, Health Secretary Matt Hancock held urgent meetings with Heathrow’s bosses but a spokesman for the airport admitted: ‘We have been working hard with the Government to try to ensure the successful implementation of the policy from Monday, but some significant gaps remain and we are yet to receive the necessary reassurances.

‘We will continue to work collaboratively with Government over the weekend but Ministers must ensure there is adequate resources and appropriate protocols in place for each step of the full end-to-end process from aircraft to hotel to avoid compromising the safety of passengers and those working at the airport.’

Airport and immigration officials are particularly worried about passengers spreading Covid-19 as they wait in queues inside the terminals and the logistics of getting them to the quarantine hotels. 

The majority of those required to quarantine will arrive at Heathrow, but its bosses yesterday said that ‘significant gaps’ about how the scheme would operate remain

The majority of those required to quarantine will arrive at Heathrow, but its bosses yesterday said that ‘significant gaps’ about how the scheme would operate remain

Border force workers said they remained unaware of exactly what rules they will be enforcing from tomorrow after the Government pushed out the legislation late on Friday night.

Lucy Moreton, professional officer at the Immigration Services Union, which represents border staff, said: ‘We’ve got no information on what we do if someone doesn’t fill out their passenger location forms, what we do if they turn up at an airport which is not a designated airport.

‘What happens if they leg it? Are we supposed to chase?’

All arrivals from 33 ‘red list’ countries will have to quarantine in one of 5,000 Government-booked airport hotel rooms for ten days at a personal cost of £1,750 for the duration of their stay. Nadine Houghton, from the GMB union which represents UK hotel and security staff, claimed the Government had ‘left it too late in the day to make sure workers on the front line in quarantine hotels are adequately protected’. 

She added: ‘Staff need thorough risk assessments, full PPE, a knowledge of the ventilation system in each hotel and a much clearer understanding of what roles security workers are expected to play.’

The Government has agreed deals with 16 hotels for just under 5,000 rooms until March 31, but leaked documents show they may need up to 28,000 hotel rooms to accommodate 1,425 arrivals per day.

Some hotel firms have opted out because the Government contract states Ministers can extend the scheme on a rolling basis beyond March 31 with the daily rate capped at between £50 and £80 for a room and three meals a day.

Travellers who need to quarantine have to book a hotel room through the Government’s website, which crashed last week but was running normally yesterday.

Last night, a Government spokesman said: ‘ We are working closely with airports and hotels to manage any issues that arise and ensure the new process runs as smoothly as possible, and we are clear the safety of all staff and passengers is a priority.’

Some hotel firms have opted out because the Government contract states Ministers can extend the scheme on a rolling basis beyond March 31 with the daily rate capped at between £50 and £80 for a room and three meals a day. One of the hotels advertising a quarantine package is seen above

Some hotel firms have opted out because the Government contract states Ministers can extend the scheme on a rolling basis beyond March 31 with the daily rate capped at between £50 and £80 for a room and three meals a day. One of the hotels advertising a quarantine package is seen above

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