‘How about a separate queue?’ Shapps scrambles to defend travel list amid airport chaos
Holidays: Grant Shapps addresses issues of queuing at airports
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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended the UK Government’s rules on international travel amid increasing confusion and chaos at airports. Mr Shapps was grilled by Charlie Stayt on BBC Breakfast about why those travelling to or from countries on the Government’s green list were allowed to mingle with those travelling between red or amber countries. UK residents have been allowed to travel abroad since restrictions were lifted on May 17 but many have been left confused after Environment Secretary George Eustice suggested that people could travel to amber countries to visit family and friends, which official Government guidelines prohibit.
Mr Stayt also asked Shapps: “How about a different queue?”
Mr Shapps replied: “Well it’s the airport’s responsibly to try and separate people out as much as possible, and they’ve been pretty constructive including now looking at opening up separate terminals.”
Mr Stayt had previously asked Mr Shapps: “Why is it that passengers coming into the UK from amber and red countries are not separated?”
“This is a real risk”
Mr Shapps responded by outlining the restrictions in place intended to ensure that travel is Covid-secure.
The frontbencher said: “Everyone has to be tested before they’re even able to get onto a flight in the UK, pre-departure testing.
“But I do want to see people separated out as much as is practically possible.
“If possible to even use unused terminals. There are only something like 4% of the usual number of people traveling through the airports.
“So there is excess space and Heathrow I think are putting together a plan to use spare terminals to bring in, perhaps, red flights separately.
“So we’ll try and do as much as possible to separate people out, but we’re asking people also to use their common sense with travel. It’s ok to go to a green country.”
Under present Government guidelines, travel is permitted to 12 countries on the green list including Portugal, Israel, and New Zealand. Those arriving from these countries are not required to quarantine.
Travel to red-listed countries is banned, and coming to the UK from a country on the list requires passengers to quarantine in a managed hotel for 10 days.
Those arriving from amber countries must quarantine for 10 days at home, but although travel to these countries is legal, Boris Johnson has said that people should not do so.
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Mr Stayt asked Shapps about the confusion of the traffic light system, saying: “For at least another 10 days, you’ll be expecting to see in airports red and amber, people from those countries, moving together.”
“People have no choice in that situation, they are herded into those environments. Personal responsibility’s got nothing to do with this.”
“So you’re saying that we’ve got another 10 days of that carrying on in the middle of a real crisis in relation to the new Indian variant?”
Mr Shapps responded: “First of all, you say people have no choice. We’re not forcing people to travel right now.”
“Secondly, every single person in that airport has already taken a coronavirus test in order to have even been able to get on the plane.”
“Thirdly, Heathrow and the other airports are working as hard as they can to try to keep passengers socially distanced.”
The EU is expected to announce on May 21 that it will allow non-essential travel for people from outside the EU who have received two coronavirus vaccinations.
However, as all EU countries excluding Portugal remain on the UK’s amber list, the government advice will be not to travel there.
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