A spokesperson for Heathrow Airport said social distancing measures, low passenger counts and face masks had been introduced to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 at the airport. They also reiterated their support for testing at airports, as an alternative to a 14-day quarantine.
However, when asked whether quarantined passengers mingle with unquarantined passengers in arrival halls, the Heathrow spokesperson said: ‘Our terminals are divided by airline rather than destination – so there is this possibility – that’s why we try to put them in place. ”
Manchester and Luton airports also do not separate passengers in arrivals halls, although both have said the responsibility lies with the border force. Southend Airport said flights usually arrive individually, so the issue rarely arises.
A number of popular vacation destinations, including France, Spain and Croatia, have had their travel lanes removed as cases exceeded the government threshold for Covid-19 cases per 100,000. While many flights have been canceled amid the pandemic, some continue to land in the UK from these countries.
In the official government security guidelines for airports, it says, “Encourage passengers to follow social distancing guidelines and stay away from others when retrieving baggage.”
He goes on to say, “Airlines should consider embarking and disembarking passengers in ways that gain social distancing and control the risk of transmission.”
However, there is no mention of separate airports for flights carrying passengers who must enter quarantine upon arrival in the UK.
The news comes after a number of passenger incidents bringing Covid-19 back to the UK – including 16 passengers on a Tui flight from Zante to Cardiff and eight on a Wizz Air flight from Crete to Luton. Each of these incidents led to panic, as health officials struggled to track all passengers on board to order them to go into quarantine.
The telegraph ‘s Aisling O’Leary returned from Switzerland last Sunday, shortly after the country lost its travel lane and was imposed a quarantine. She said: “I got off the plane at Heathrow and walked straight to the baggage claim area through passport control.
“To be honest, I expected some sort of official there when we got off, to carry us down a separate hallway or something, but it was no different getting off a plane from a country on the ‘green list’.
” I was shocked. Me and the rest of the “quarantine team” were released into the wild, so to speak, mingling with passengers from other flights as we stood in line at passport control and waited for our luggage to arrive.
Others have reported similar situations. Gabriella Driver said on Twitter: “I landed at Heathrow on August 21st. There were no social distancing measures at the electronic gates and very few airport workers wore masks, which surprised me.
Pippa Nixon a dit Telegraph travel: “I flew from Faro to Manchester on Friday afternoon and we arrived via Terminal One. There has been no effort to separate us from the flights from the quarantined areas as far as I know. Baggage control was open as usual and passport control was very busy – we were in line for about 40 minutes with at least two more flights.
The telegraphPenny Walker describes the situation at Heathrow, after returning from Rhodes last week: “As we got off the escalator, the passport control queue was crossing the steps in the lobby behind us. People got confused as a stack started at the top of the escalator, so to avoid a potentially dangerous situation, they just started to work their way through the queue.
“A handful of people had taken off their masks, and there was only one staff member in sight – she was, it seemed, too exhausted to apply the rules. In the winding line, passengers ignored social distancing rules – although it’s hard to complain about the people behind you when the airport puts you close to the people next to you. Our destination, electronic gates, also seemed uncrowded with less than half in operation.
“After wearing a mask for more than seven hours and disinfecting our hands regularly (including with the kits distributed on board), it all seemed a bit futile as we tackled the utter disarray at passport control.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation said: “It is the responsibility of airports to ensure social distancing within the airport. We have given advice to the industry, but it is up to the airports to do the risk assessments and then implement the directives based on them.
The telegraph has contacted Border Force and is awaiting a response.