Heathrow has reopened a terminal dedicated to processing passengers flying into London from countries on the UK’s Covid red list.
Britain’s biggest airport has again turned Terminal 4 into a red-list facility to separate travellers from high-risk destinations amid concerns over the newly identified Omicron Covid variant.
The government reactivated its red list last week with 10 countries from southern Africa now included, meaning passengers coming from those locations must go into officially managed hotel quarantine for 11 nights.
The west London airport ran a separate arrivals terminal, which was initially T3 and later T4, for red-list travel between June and the start of November, before travel restrictions were briefly relaxed. T4 was then mothballed until its reopening on Wednesday to process red-list flights.
Tougher travel rules have been reintroduced by the government since the discovery of the Omicron variant, including the requirement for fully vaccinated people entering the UK to self-isolate until they receive a negative result from a PCR test.
The move has punctured optimism in the travel sector, with demand having been briefly rekindled when restrictions were eased to allow returning vaccinated travellers to use cheaper lateral flow tests without self-isolation until any positive test results.
Heathrow‘s chief operating officer, Emma Gilthorpe, disse: “We are supportive of measures that protect public health and prevent the spread of Covid. The rapid introduction of restrictions for international travel will nonetheless be a further significant blow for British exporters and those wanting to visit friends and relatives. Keeping the changes under constant review, and a government commitment to the removal of red-list countries as soon as it is safe to do so, will help.”
Heathrow said it was maintaining Covid-secure measures across the airport, including mandatory face coverings, intensive robotic cleaning regimes and enhanced ventilation in immigration halls.
Passenger numbers at the airport, which slumped during the pandemic, have returned markedly, boosted in particular by the restart of transatlantic travel lo scorso mese. tuttavia, reports in the US suggest the Biden administration may now impose restrictions on foreign visitors again, including more tests and potentially even quarantine for the first time, as the world waits for assessments of the severity of the new variant.