Heathrow Airport has been forced to close its Terminal 5 due to a “covid” outbreak and system failures. The airport is now in the process of reopening, but travelers are being warned that it may take several hours for flights to resume.
The huge quarter-mile queues at Heathrow is a story about the Covid outbreak and system failures. Queues were reported to be up to two hours long, with passengers waiting in line for over an hour before they could get through security.
Over the weekend, a quarter-mile line built up across Terminal 5 at Heathrow (Picture: TomKibasi) Massive lines at Heathrow Airport have been blamed on an epidemic of Covid and a’repeatedly collapsing’ computerized border system.
Border Crossing, the Home Office’s £372 million security database, allegedly went down on Sunday, causing travellers to be refused at e-gates and forced to be examined manually by immigration officials.
On Twitter, Tom Kibasi, deputy chairman of an NHS mental health trust, shared a picture of the line “running the entire length of Heathrow Terminal 5″—roughly a quarter of a mile. The issue has been worsened by the virus spreading among employees, with one out of every four people suspected of being self-isolating.
E-gates are also reportedly rejecting more passengers owing to scanning issues with passenger location papers. Insiders anticipate ‘absolute pandemonium’ later this week, when the number of returning tourists reaches unprecedented levels since the outbreak began.
Most schools have been closed for two weeks, which means that many families will be returning after a week away. According to a source inside the Border Force, who spoke to the Daily Mail, The climax hasn’t even begun yet. By the end of the week, everything will be in disarray.
‘Border Crossing is constantly breaking down, and when it does, it remains down for days. It’s more susceptible when there are a lot of people traveling. ‘I can’t see a situation in which there won’t be mayhem when the greater numbers of passengers who left as soon as schools let out start returning to the UK in the coming days.’
The issues arise months after a damning study slammed the way the Border Crossing project was managed, warning that the Home Office had “no evidence” that it could handle increased passenger volumes.
Heathrow has seen massive delays due to system problems and a Covid outbreak (Picture: EPA)
Passengers must wait for hours to get through customs (Picture: SWNS)
With a budget of £199 million, the Home Office said in 2014 that it will provide a digitized border control system by 2019. However, the government ‘reset’ the project that year, extending the delivery timeframe by three years and adding £173 million to the cost.
Members of the Commons public accounts committee, which released a report on the system in March, blasted the ‘staggering’ expense of government IT projects, blaming a ‘lack of effective leadership, management, and supervision.’
The Border Crossing system, which compares travelers’ identities to terrorist records, had to be hurried in by the end of June because the database it replaced, the Warnings Index, was no longer capable of handling EU travelers.
Heathrow acknowledged that border control wait times had been “on occasion unsatisfactory,” but blamed the delays on employees doing spot checks to ensure passengers were complying with the most recent government entry regulations.
However, according to one source, e-gates rejecting passenger locator forms intended to assist airlines contact individuals in the case of a coronavirus epidemic are also causing lineups.
‘If you put a space or dot where there shouldn’t be one, [the gate] simply rejects it,’ they told The Times.
As a result of changes in EU and US travel regulations, more people are now arriving in the UK. (Photo courtesy of AFP)
The issues arise when more people are expected to arrive in the UK as travel restrictions are eased.
Passengers from the EU and America who have been double-vaccinated are no longer subject to quarantine, implying that airport traffic would increase.
While passenger numbers are increasing, more employees are now absent owing to positive Covid tests.
According to The Times, 80 Border Force personnel at Heathrow were sick with the illness over the weekend, and dozens more were obliged to isolate because they had been in close contact with one or more of them.
‘Waiting times at the border have on occasion been intolerable, and we have urged on the UK Government to resolve the issue as soon as possible,’ a Heathrow spokesperson said.
‘Border Force works hard to ensure it has the appropriate amount of resources to verify that passengers are complying with our border health controls and to maintain border security as travel continues to open,’ a spokeswoman for the Home Office said.
‘We understand how important eGates are in expediting passenger trips while ensuring security. We’re updating our eGates so they can check travelers’ health needs as well, and that work will continue throughout the summer.’
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Heathrow airport was forced to close its Terminal 5 after a covid outbreak caused system failures. Queues of up to four hours were seen at the terminal. Reference: heathrow queues covid.