Holidaymakers have been warned border checks will take 14 or 15 times longer than before the pandemic – longer if passengers don’t have the correct documents to hand.
Border Force Director General Paul Lincoln told Friday’s Downing Street briefing: “There will continue to be additional health checks for every person crossing our border and inevitably that will mean it will take longer for most people to enter the UK.
“For the time being, passengers will need to expect an increase in the time taken at each stage of their journey.
“It currently takes a Border Force officer five to 10 minutes to complete all the necessary checks, which mean even for the most compliant passenger it might take 14 or 15 times longer to process than before, compared to around 25 seconds.
“Where people do not have the correct paperwork, it can, and has, taken considerably longer, including when we need to serve fixed penalty notices for non-compliance.”
He added: “Border Force officers have to date been manually checking that each person has a valid, negative COVID-19 test and that has been taken within 72 hours of their journey to the UK, that everyone has also booked a day 2 and day 8 test package; that those travelling from red countries have booked into a quarantine hotel and are handed off to the managed quarantine service; that those arriving from elsewhere understand the requirement to quarantine at home for 10 days.
“And finally, that people have correctly completed their passenger locator form so that they can be contacted by NHS Test and Trace if necessary.
“To keep us all safe, ministers all agree that Border Force should check 100% of passengers and we have and will continue to do so.”
Mr Lincoln added he understood queues were frustrating for travellers and urged the travel industry to ‘play its part by making sure that every passenger is ready for the checks before they meet the border’.
Border Force is working on smoothing the process, including upgrading its e-gates programme, digitalising Passenger Locator Forms and adding more officers.
But he warned: “Nonetheless, passengers should still expect times at the border to take longer as we conduct the checks that the public rightly expect during this global pandemic.”
Meanwhile, the Mail on Sunday reported holidaymakers at Heathrow could face up queues of up to 10 hours because the airport does not have wraparound screens at immigration, meaning only every other desk can be used, according to the Immigration Services Union.