Only one in 10 passengers checked at UK border, MPs told
Just one in TEN passengers arriving in the UK are being checked to make sure they comply with Covid quarantine rules, MPs are told
- Only around 10% of passengers arriving in the UK are being checked, MPs told
- Checks to ensure travellers have filled out locator forms are ‘very basic’
- The 14-day self-isolation policy for UK arrivals was introduced in June
Only around 10% of passengers arriving in the UK are being checked to make sure they are complying with coronavirus quarantine rules, MPs have been told.
Checks at the border to make sure travellers have filled out passenger locator forms are ‘very basic’, are not carried out on ‘every arriving passenger’, and appear to be ‘unenforceable’, according to a trade union official.
The 14-day self-isolation policy for UK arrivals, bar a handful of exemptions, was introduced in June, with breaches punishable by fines of between £100 and £1,000.
The rules require travellers to fill out a form in advance of arrival, providing contact information, travel details and an address where they plan to self-isolate once they arrive in the country. Heathrow airport International Arrivals above
The rules require travellers to fill out a form in advance of arrival, providing contact information, travel details and an address where they plan to self-isolate once they arrive in the country.
Lucy Moreton, professional officer at the Immigration Services Union, which represents border staff, said: ‘The check is very, very basic. Simply, has the form been completed, is the information contained in it vaguely plausible? So, unless it’s manifestly unreliable, we accept the data that’s put there at face value.’
Speaking to the Commons Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Ms Moreton said: ‘We don’t check every arriving passenger. We aim, where there is a high level of compliance with that carrier, to check about 10% of arrivals.’
Asked how effective the checks are, she replied: ‘They are very limited, unfortunately. There simply is not the facility in the border to make any checks on the veracity of what’s there.’
Only around 10% of passengers arriving in the UK are being checked to make sure they are complying with coronavirus quarantine rules, MPs have been told. Passengers arriving into Heathrow airport above
Ms Moreton added that the majority of concerns from the union’s members ‘centre around the fact that it appears to be unenforceable’, adding: ‘We don’t check the addresses.
‘Inherently, if they have not gone to the place they told us they were going to go, we’ve lost them. The UK is a very big place.
‘Individuals can put whatever it is that they want into the passenger locator form, we don’t query that. They then get on to mass transport in order to enter into the UK. They can move around with very little enforcement.’
She also said the rate of verbal abuse experienced by Border Force staff has ‘gone through the roof since this came in’, because passengers are not being told they have to fill out the form and are angry when they found this out on arrival.
Travel operators face a £4,000 fine if they fail to provide passengers with information about coronavirus before they arrive in England.
Police chiefs initially said officers would have a ‘limited role’ in enforcing quarantine rules, with Public Health England calling on forces for help if they were having difficulty getting hold of people who had arrived in the UK to make sure they were complying with the regulations.
Earlier in the session, Thames Valley Police Chief Constable John Campbell told MPs his force has received 621 notifications of potential breaches of quarantine since the regulations were introduced, 521 of them since November.
Speaking to the Commons Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Ms Moreton said: ‘We don’t check every arriving passenger. We aim, where there is a high level of compliance with that carrier, to check about 10% of arrivals’
As a result of those, the force issued 15 fines after officers decided quarantine rules had been breached.
Mr Campbell said the workload is not ‘insignificant’ for police and has been increasing.
MPs also heard from health experts that a test before travel and then a shorter quarantine period culminating with a Covid test at the end could be more effective and is likely to improve compliance.
Examples were highlighted of better compliance abroad, where some Asian countries and Australia have resorted to mandatory quarantining passengers in hotels so they are monitored.
Professor Annelies Wilder-Smith, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said border checks should be increased for at least 50% of passengers for them to be effective, adding: ‘If you do quarantine and isolation, you have to do it right.
‘You either do it right or you don’t do it at all.’
In July, Home Secretary Priti Patel said compliance with coronavirus quarantine measures by people travelling in and out of the UK had been ‘incredibly high’, at a rate of 99.9% over four weeks since the restrictions were introduced.
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