First arrivals under UK quarantine rules: 'They didn't even check my temperature'

Passengers at Heathrow express surprise and confusion over new coronavirus controls

As the UK government’s easing of lockdown restrictions is gradually introduced, new quarantine regulations mean that passengers arriving in Britain from Monday will need to stay at home for 14 days.

Under the new rules most people arriving in the UK will need to fill in an online form with their contact and travel details. They will also need to include the address where they will be staying in quarantine. In England, random checks will be carried out by Public Health England, and people will only be allowed out to shop for essentials such as food and medicine if it is not possible to rely on others to do so for them.

At Heathrow airport there was some confusion, however, as the first passengers subject to the new restrictions landed. Travellers were asked to fill in the online forms but evidence to prove the information was correct was not required. 

Some passengers were surprised by the lack of physical screening for the virus.  Fiona Gathright, 59, travelled from Washington DC and will be living in Bristol with her fiance, who had flown in from Hong Kong. 

“They didn’t even do a temperature check at either end, not in Washington before we got on the flight and not in London when we got off the flight,” she said.  “Somebody could have been on the flight with a 100-plus temperature and gotten off and gone on their merry way.”

There was also some confusion over the exact details of the quarantine. “They told me that we could go get groceries. That’s my understanding anyway. But we had thought if we couldn’t get food we could order stuff online,” Gathright said. 

Others said they were told not to leave the house for food shopping unless necessary.

Mariana Mora, 32, who had flown in from Boston, was concerned about whether she would be able to walk her dog, and for how long if so, but the government’s official advice states: “In England, you must only exercise within your home or garden. You cannot leave your home to walk your dog.”

The travellers were told to try to avoid public transport when heading to their final destination but this was not possible for many. 

Jen, a 23-year-old international relations student at the London School of Economics, was taking the Heathrow Express train to get to her shared student accommodation in the city.

She said: “On the email [British Airways] sent, it said to try and have a family member pick you up but I don’t have anyone who lives here. It then said public transport and Ubers should be used as a last resort.

“I was a bit wary [about getting public transport] but considering there is hardly anyone around I think it’s actually kind of fine.”


Jessica Murray

The GuardianTramp

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