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It's claimed holidaymakers returning to England from countries placed on the green and amber list may no longer face Covid status checks when arriving at the airport.
According to a leaked Border Force memo issued to staff, officials will no longer have to verify whether new arrivals have tested negative for Covid-19 or completed a passenger locator form showing an address where they will self-isolate, reports Lancs Live.
This change came into effect on Monday (July 19) according to the memo, which was first reported by The Guardian and then later confirmed by union ISU which represents border immigration and customs staff in the UK.
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Currently, rules state that all passengers returning to the UK must provide a negative Covid-19 test before departure – regardless of which country they have travelled from.
They must also take another test two days after their arrival, and complete a passenger locator form with details such as an address.
Border Force officers were previously told to check 100& of passenger Covid documentation at the border – a direction blamed by some for contributing to queues of up to six hours.
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The ISU said: “It does appear that Border Force staff at least at major locations have been told not to check for Covid-secure documentation.”
Instead, the focus will now be on airlines to check that passengers have completed the correct paperwork and tested negative for Covid-19 before they travel.
Lucy Moreton, professional officer for the ISU, said the leak is accurate.
She told the BBC: “Ultimately this is a political decision.
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“Certainly, it will reduce queue times significantly and hopefully also the level of verbal abuse to which Border Force staff are subject.
“That is welcome to us. The impact on the UK’s Covid security is ultimately a scientific determination.”
One airport executive told the Financial Times that any loosening of checks would make sense as the responsibility is already on carriers to check passenger documentation.
Airlines face fines if they let people fly without the correct paperwork.
Trade body Airlines UK said: “Carriers are committed to working with Border Force on these requirements, which is why compliance has remained consistently extremely high.”
A government spokesperson said: “Our utmost priority is protecting the health of the public and our enhanced borders regime is helping reduce the risk of new variants being transmitted.
“All passenger locator forms are still being checked by carriers, as they are legally required to do, and to suggest otherwise is wrong. This legal requirement on carriers is underpinned by a robust compliance regime, which is overseen by regulators.
“Compliance with these rules is essential in order to protect the population from new variants of Covid-19, and so there will be tough fines for those who do not follow the rules.”
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