Travellers to green list destinations must expect delays at the border on their return as manual checks of all passengers’ test certificates and passenger locator forms will be maintained from the May 17 restart of travel.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps insisted “there will be waits at the border” as he unveiled the 12-strong green list of destinations to which travel can resume on Friday (May 7).
He also warned holidaymakers only to book holidays guaranteeing a refund or refund credit note in the event of travel advice changing, and in doing so gave an extended plug for package holidays.
Shapps insisted: “It’s very important people check the terms and conditions of bookings very carefully. If you book a package holiday, I’ve extended the ability of people to get not just refund but a voucher [refund credit note] that is guaranteed by Atol.
“So the government has tried to back the industry in that way. A lot of travel companies and airlines have also put a lot of flexibility in place [on bookings].
“Our strong advice is not to book a holiday that does not offer a refund if Covid travel advice changes. Please check very carefully when it comes to the terms and conditions.”
Shapps warned those who do travel: “I’m afraid there will be waits at the border. The first duty of the government is to protect its people.”
Speaking alongside the transport secretary, Border Force director general Paul Lincoln echoed the warning, saying: “Travel will be different. There continue to be additional health checks at the border and inevitably it will take longer for people to enter the UK.
“It takes five to 10 minutes to complete all the necessary checks compared to 25 seconds before, even with the most compliant passengers.
“For less-prepared passengers it takes longer, including having to administer fines for non-compliance.”
Lincoln said: “Ministers have agreed Border Force should check 100% of passengers and we will continue to do so.
“We are digitising elements of the process, including the passenger locator form, and we will roll out an e-gate [upgrade] programme in the summer.”
He added: “The travel industry can play its part by preparing passengers for the checks they can expect at the border. But passengers should be prepared for it to take longer.”
Shapps said: “It will start to become a digital check of the passenger locator form at the e-gates over time.”
However, he gave no details of the roll-out of digitised forms or digital Covid-status certificates.