Rule changes allowing quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated adults and all children from July 19 have sparked a surge of bookings. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps yesterday told families to expect delays at foreign airports as airlines check passenger locator forms and whether travellers have had the right Covid tests. But the Immigration Services Union said there could be queues of up to six hours once people land in England, because not all electronic gates can cope with the new system.
Spokeswoman Lucy Moreton said: “It’s a political decision to check 100 per cent of Covid arrivals and that largely is the problem here.
“There still will be queues associated with EU exit, with staff perhaps not being as available, particularly if self-isolation figures surge.
“But whilst we retain the requirement to check four pieces of documentation for every arriving passenger, the e-gate cannot check the pre-departure test certificate because they’re not uniform. And they can’t check any vaccination status if that becomes relevant, so whilst that remains the political imperative, these queues are going to happen.”
Mr Shapps said: “The place to expect queues is the airport you are coming from. Once you get back to the UK, all of that is starting to
“People should expect more disruption than usual, but I know that everyone is working very hard to minimise those queues.”
Travel firms reported a spike in bookings after the Government announced quarantine measures would be relaxed when returning to England from amber-list countries.
Northern Ireland is likely to follow from July 26, while Scotland and Wales are considering whether to adopt the same rules.
People returning from amber destinations including France, Spain and Portugal will still have to take a Covid test three days before returning.
They must also take one on or before the second day of their return, but not the day eight test.
Mr Shapps said ministers were “actively working” on accepting vaccination certificates from other countries after it emerged the exemption would apply only to passengers with NHS-issued jabs.
Travel firm Skyscanner said just 30 minutes after Thursday’s announcement on easing amber-list rules, there was a 53 per cent increase in UK online searches. Thomas Cook said web traffic doubled moments after the announcement and has kept growing.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce on Monday whether social distancing and mask-wearing rules can be lifted on July 19.
The latest figures show 80,072,121 Covid jabs have been given in the UK, with 34,374,246 of those second doses.
By yesterday morning, an extra 35,707 lab-confirmed cases were recorded, the highest daily increase since January 22.
The Delta variant is now linked to 216,249 cases and accounts for 99 per cent of confirmed reports.
By June 21, there were 257 deaths in England of people who had the variant – 231 of them aged 50 or over. Overall, 116 of them had been double-vaccinated.
The coronavirus reproduction number, or R value, in England rose slightly to between 1.2 to 1.5, up from between 1.1 and 1.3 last week.
But the death toll remained relatively low, with a further 29 people dying within 28 days of testing positive.
And new information from more than one million people in at-risk groups has found overall vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease at around 60 per cent after one dose of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer/BioNTech jabs.
For those aged 65 and over, effectiveness with Pfizer-BioNTech is 89 per cent and 80 per cent with AstraZeneca. Vaccine effectiveness for people who are immuno-suppressed was 74 per cent after two doses, similar to those not in an at-risk group.
That figure is up from four per cent after a first dose, showing the importance of a second dose.
Dr Mary Ramsay of Public Health England said: “This real-world data shows for the first time that most people who are clinically vulnerable to Covid-19 still receive high levels of protection after two doses of vaccine.”