Plans are afoot to link a passenger’s Covid documentation to their passport, in a bid to stop the long queues seen at the UK border over the past week.
All arrivals into the UK must present a raft of paperwork, including a negative Covid test result, taken within 72 hours; a Passenger Locator Form; and proof of further Covid tests.
They may be questioned on their travel history to ensure they haven’t flown from a country on the UK’s “red list”.
The current rules took effect in February, alongside stringent quarantine and testing rules.
Last week, Chris Garton, chief solutions officer at Heathrow, revealed queues had reached up to six hours as border agents struggled to check paperwork manually.
UK Border Force staff are busy working on plans to link documents like negative Covid test results to a passenger’s passport, in order for the e-gates to be used, reports The Times.
This would enable passengers to enter the UK through these electronic gates, which would check all the information was in order.
It quotes a Whitehall source who said the government was confident of reopening the e-gates by August, three months after international travel is given the go-ahead on 17 May.
The Global Travel Taskforce report, which came out on 9 April, stated the intention for the UK Border Force to “roll out e-gates integration across the largest airports by summer 2021 and all e-gate ports of entry by autumn 2021”.
There are currently only manual compliance checks in place.
In the longer term, the report says, the e-gates will be used to check that passengers have completed the Passenger Locator Form.
International travel for all but the slimmest of reasons is banned until 17 May, from when it will resume under a “traffic light” system. At that point, air traffic is expected to surge.
Lucy Moreton, professional officer for the Immigration Services Union (ISU), which represents border agents, told MPs that “these things are very easy to knock up electronically unfortunately”.
Speaking at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, Ms Moreton said that around 20,000 people were arriving in the UK each day, most of them hauliers.
She added that it was “inherently unknowable” how many people were arriving with fake documentation, as border agents take “on trust” that the certificates were correct.
The Independent has contacted the Home Office for further comment.