While restrictions are set to hot up for unvaccinated Brits hoping to engage in domestic social life, reports suggest that Border Officials have been told to stop checking if people arriving into England from countries on the Green and Amber lists have tested negative for Covid, as well as to stop conducting other basic tests, in an attempt to reduce queuing at the border. The Guardian has the story.
Leaked instructions [to border officials] have prompted claims that the Government is turning a blind eye to the risk of importing Covid cases.
A change that came into effect on Monday means Border Force officers no longer have to verify whether new arrivals have received a negative Covid test, have booked a test within coming days, or have a passenger locator form showing an address where they will isolate if necessary.
Border Force sources contacted the Guardian on condition of anonymity to raise serious concerns with the shift in approach, meant to reduce queues as foreign travel restarts.
The Government said it would not comment on leaked documents and stressed that airlines were legally required to conduct all the necessary checks.
Ministers’ approach to the border has been one of the most heavily criticised aspects of the Government’s Covid strategy. Critics claim the Government was slow to act in shutting the borders to arrivals from India this year, ultimately allowing the more infectious Delta variant to take hold. …
An instruction sent to Border Force staff, seen by the Guardian, explains that for arrivals from countries on the Amber and Green lists:
~ Officers are not required to routinely check for a passenger locator form or pre-departure testing or tests to be taken on day two and eight after arrival.
~ Where the IT system indicates a passenger locator form has not been found, officers are not required to check for the form, or question the passenger unless the passenger displays other “warning or behavioural indicators to suggest non-compliance”.
~ Electronic gates (eGates) will no longer refer passengers to in-person checks by Border Force officers if a passenger locator form is not found. …
Border Force officers told the Guardian the changes were brought in because the IT systems used at the border were struggling to cope with the number of checks and the new policy allowing fully vaccinated passengers to avoid self-isolation on return from amber list countries. There were fears of a surge in arrivals and significantly increased queue times, they said.
One officer said: “The only rationale for this change is to speed up queue times when travel is expected to increase. At a time when the country is unlocking, this is the time when we should be using every tool available to mitigate the risks, not turn a literal blind eye.”
A Government spokesperson has denied the claims: “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.”
Worth reading in full.