Heathrow has opened a Covid ‘Red List Terminal’ for arrivals from Red List countries.
The Red List is a list of countries we cannot travel to and from unless there are essential travel reasons.
This is because these countries have high rates of Covid variants. If one of these variants is immune from the vaccines we have in the UK, this could cause another wave of deaths and illnesses.
Current guidance from the UK Government means that if you are travelling from a country on England’s Red List, you must enter a Government-managed hotel facility to quarantine at Heathrow and complete three Covid tests.
We are now able to travel to 12 different countries and territories on England’s Green List without the need to quarantine when returning to England so concerns have been raised repeatedly on social media about the need to separate passengers returning from safer countries on the Green List and more dangerous countries on the Red List.
It has now been 435 days since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the threat Covid-19 presented to public health was so severe, the country needed to enter a lockdown.
The move to separate arrival passenger flows from Red List countries, or inbound passengers from the nations with the worst Covid outbreaks before the Red List’s introduction, has been called for over a period of months.
Responding to images circulating on social media of crowds at Heathrow arrivals, Lord Bethell, from Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s team, told the House of Lords: “I also saw the images circulating last week of queues at Heathrow Airport and I agree with the noble Baroness that we do not want to see a repeat of those kinds of scenes.”
“We have taken the necessary steps to ensure safe travel and minimise the circulation of mixed passengers within the terminals.”
Why Terminal 3?
Heathrow Airport has made the decision to use Terminal 3 in conjunction with the Home Office claiming as well as public health benefits, the separation of passengers will reduce queuing times.
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As Terminal 4 is the furthest away from the other terminals (2, 3 and 5), Heathrow says it will move Red List arrivals there as soon as operationally possible but for now it needs to use Terminal 3 as Terminal 4 has been out of use for months meaning it’s not ready yet.
A Heathrow spokesperson told My London: “We will move this facility to Terminal 4 as soon as operationally possible.
“While opening this facility will be logistically very challenging, our hope is that it will enable Border Force to carry out its duties more efficiently as passenger volumes increase in line with the green list.”
Does this make us safer?
Perhaps it will make travellers feel safer but in reality we may not actually be safer.
Many of the UK’s other airports only have one terminal for arrivals so cannot ensure there is a special arrivals terminal for Red List countries.
Instead, these airports ensure there are rigorous procedures to separate Red List passengers from other arrivals and adhere to strict cleaning, social distancing and ventilation measures.
Most flights from Red List countries go to Heathrow specifically because it has a terminal which can handle the arrivals.
What about other London airports?
There are no Red List arrivals or departures at Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and London City.
A spokesperson for Stansted Airport confirmed to My London: “London Stansted is not designated as a red list airport so we do not have any flights from those countries currently on the government’s list.”
In the future changes to the Red List could mean that some of these airports see arrivals from the affected countries, particularly if a European Union country was ‘redlisted’.
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