Returning to the UK from a country in England’s travel quarantine list, you face... nothing. No checks, no trace, no health monitoring.

First published in August 2020.

Passengers returning to the UK must complete a public health passenger locator form (PLF) online before arrival which they will have to present together with the QR code attached to their confirmation email. Anyone refusing to complete the form faces a fixed penalty notice of £100.

But what checks are actually being made on passengers on their return from countries in the government’s quarantine list?

As he returned from Spain into East Midlands Airport, Joan Pons Laplana explains on Twitter that although he saw many posters at the airport reminding passengers they ought to get their QR code ready to be produced to airport officers, nobody was actually present in the health screening area.

An empty chair.

A table with hand sanitizer and a roll of paper.

No Border Force officers...

An isolated occurence? Quite the contrary.

Raquel Delgado experienced something similar on her return to Luton airport where she describes the use of masks in the airport lounge being patchy and social distancing at passport control inexistent.

Flying back to Luton airport two days ago, Steve Munroe’s temperature was not checked, nobody asked him to show the QR code associated to his PLF or anything else. To him, nothing was “suggesting they were aware Corona was a thing... I rather they were doing too much than too little.”

Geraldine Pavey explains that, when she returned from Croatia, nobody checked the passengers’ temperature in Heathrow, nor checking if she had filled in the online form. No social distancing was enforced either in the airport. “It was like any other day coming back from holiday,” she concludes.

In Heathrow again, Davison describes how people were desperately filling in their forms only to find that nobody was collecting anything when going through the exit.

Emily Burrett arrived in Stansted last Thursday. She too describes no social distancing in queues, no antibacterial stations, no cleaners wiping down high contact areas, and nobody checking PLF forms. No advice (or signs) to isolate or avoid public transport for those from high risk areas.

Melissa P, who just arrived from Malaga, experienced no checks and no questions in Gatwick.

Kerry Hall flew from Fuertventura to Manchester a couple of weeks ago where nobody was asked for QR codes since there was nobody about. Instead, she explains that passengers were “just rushed through passport control as quickly as possible.”

Flying from Madrid, Lu is yet another example where not only were the passengers’ temperatures not taken at any point at the airport, but social distancing was inexistent at passport control.

Many other people have similar stories to tell whether they travelled back from the Netherlands, France (by ferry, by car, or at the Eurotunnel), Greece, Sweden, Belgium, etc.

Compare this situation to other European countries where Ian in Kent explains that as his son travelled between Denmark and Germany last month, his full details were taken on both side of the border, or Roz Davies who travelled to Alicante Airport where all online forms were checked as well as passengers on arrival. Closer yet, Maxwell’s daughter who flew from Manchester to Dublin had to complete forms and was called a few days later to check that she was at home in quarantine.

This is happening as many British citizens living in the EU had to give up on the idea of travelling to visit their family and friends in the UK this summer because the UK Government’s quarantine rules were seen as unworkable to enjoy even a short holiday.

What does the Government actually say?

On the Government website, the rules are clear. You MUST complete the form online to get a QR code. Border Force officers WILL check your form upon entry in the UK. (note that anyone breaking quarantine faces a fine of up to £1,000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland)

Passenger Locator Form. /

During her appearance before the Home Affairs Committee on 15 July 2020, the Home Secretary Priti Patel claimed that “In terms of spot checks that were undertaken as well, between 6 June and 12 July, there were 383,000 checks, and the compliance rate has been 99.9%.”

But when asked by the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Yvette Cooper, how many of those 383,000 checks were actually checks at the border and how many were checks at people’s residence, Priti Patel replied that although “the majority of them will be checks at the border of people who have come in, obviously,” she was not able to break the figure down because spot checks are “predominantly led by Public Health England, so that is separate data to the Home Office and Border Force data.”

According to the Guardian though, Border Force officials have been set a target of checking less than a third of arrivals to the UK to ensure they have forms to aid test-and-trace efforts, which “raises the prospect that hundreds of thousands of people have entered the country without the documents being inspected.”

World-beating incompetence?

So, is what returning passengers currently experiencing back in the UK purely accidental, or is it deliberate? Are this whole controversial quarantine ruling and the UK Government’s Track & Trace just smoke and mirrors? Or is it more simply the consequence of big announcements, empty gestures, and meaningless statements from incompetent politicians working together within an incompetent government?🔷


Check their Voting Record:

🗳️ Priti Patel

🗳️ Yvette Cooper

[This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 30 August 2020. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Shutterstock/Yau Ming Low.)

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