• Quote: ‘Airlines to check passengers have completed correct paperwork and tested negative for Covid-19 before travel – or face fines’

By Andrew Atkinson

Holidaymakers returning to England from countries placed on the green and amber list may no longer face strict Covid-19 protocol checks when arriving at the airport.

A leaked Border Force memo issued to staff and officials states it will no longer have to verify whether new arrivals have tested negative for Covid-19 or completed a passenger locator form showing an address where they will self-isolate.

The ISU (union ISU represents border immigration and customs staff in the UK) said: “It does appear that Border Force staff – at least at major locations – have been told not to check for Covid-secure documentation.”

Lucy Moreton, professional officer for the ISU, said the leak is accurate: “Ultimately this is a political decision.

“Certainly, it will reduce queue times significantly and hopefully also the level of verbal abuse to which Border Force staff are subject.”

Speaking to the BBC she said: “That is welcome to us. The impact on the UK’s Covid security is ultimately a scientific determination.”

One airport executive said any loosening of checks would make sense – as the onus is already on carriers to check passenger documentation.

Airlines will have to check that passengers have completed the correct paperwork and tested negative for Covid-19 before they travel – or face fines if they let people fly without the correct paperwork.

Trade body Airlines UK said: “Carriers are committed to working with Border Force on these requirements, which is why compliance has remained consistently extremely high.”

The change came into effect on July 19 – ‘Freedom Day’ – according to the memo, first reported by The Guardian and confirmed by union ISU which represents border immigration and customs staff in the UK.

Current rules state that all passengers returning to the UK must provide a negative Covid-19 test – before departure regardless of which country they have travelled from.

They must also carry out another test two days after their arrival, and complete a passenger locator form with details such as an address.

Border Force officers were previously instructed to check 100 per cent of passenger Covid documentation at the border, that lead to lengthy queues.

A government spokesperson said: “Our utmost priority is protecting the health of the public and our enhanced borders regime is helping reduce the risk of new variants being transmitted.

“All passenger locator forms are still being checked by carriers, as they are legally required to do, and to suggest otherwise is wrong.

“This legal requirement on carriers is underpinned by a robust compliance regime, which is overseen by regulators.

“Compliance with these rules is essential in order to protect the population from new variants of Covid-19, and so there will be tough fines for those who do not follow the rules.”