Heathrow warns of 5-hour airport queues while flights could be suspended when new Covid border controls are enforced

PASSENGERS could face queues up to five hours long thanks to new rules coming into force in a bid to stop mutant strains of Covid entering the country.

Officials have warned the new tighter border controls could see Heathrow descend into chaos, with flights cancelled and lengthy queue times.

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The extra checks needed on arrivals and shortages of Border Force staff could "compromise" the safety of up to 8,000 passengers landing at the London airport each day, the airport says.

Officials believe having to review details such as whether travellers have come from one of the 33 red-listed countries and paid for their quarantine hotels could bump up the time taken on each arrival by double, to 15 minutes.

Crowds of jetsetters hurrying back to avoid the enforced quarantine have already lead to heavy queues, especially with e-gates shut because of the need for face-to-face checks.

A spokesman for Heathrow says the airport's "key concern" is the ability of Border Force staff to "cope", reports the Telegraph.

"Queues at the border in recent days of almost five hours are totally unacceptable," the statement adds.

"Ministers need to ensure there is adequate resource and effective processes at the border to avoid compromising the safety of passengers and those working at the airport, which could necessitate the suspension of some arriving flights."

Frantic jetsetters rushed back to the UK before tough rules forcing travellers to spend hundreds of pounds on hotel rooms and Covid tests came into force.

International passengers made their way through border control on Sunday – just narrowly missing new mandatory travel rules.

In a desperate bid to stop people bringing new Covid mutant strains into the country, travellers from 33 red list countries will now have to isolate in hotels for a minimum of 10 days.

From today (Monday), all travellers entering the UK will also have to take two coronavirus tests while self-isolating.

And the entire process – including the two mandatory tests and a quarantine hotel room- will cost arrivals £1,750 each.

People must get a test on day two and day eight of their 10-day quarantine period.

If passengers leave the quarantine hotel before their 10 days are up, they will be handed a £5,000 coronavirus fine.

But this figure can increase up to £10,000, Matt Hancock warned.

The Health Secretary also announced that passengers arriving from red list countries will be forced to stay in the hotels for LONGER than 10 days if they test positive.

Travellers will have to stay in the quarantine hotel until they are proven to no longer be infectious.

Matt Hancock said the new measures are being enforced so we can "protect the progress that we've worked together so hard to accomplish".

Brits also face up to 10 years in jail if they refuse to tell authorities where they have been travelling – and are later found to have visited red-list countries.

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