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Heathrow bosses warn passengers they must book Covid swabs BEFORE heading to the airport

Heathrow passengers today had a taste of the new normal as they underwent swab tests before boarding flights to the US.

Passengers were seen flooding into the London airport this morning, despite a series of travel bans on UK travellers.

More than 50 countries across the world have imposed restrictions on UK travel after the identification of a mutant Covid-19 strain in Britain.

However flights to the US can continue, so long as passengers provide a negative Covid test before they fly from the UK. 

Testing at Heathrow was yesterday disrupted after a ‘plumbing issue’ at one of the airport’s on-site PCR testing facilities – operated by Collinson – forced one of the labs to partially shut.

Some were moved across to different terminals and faced longer waits for their test results.

Heathrow bosses say the ‘plumbing issue’ has now been fixed.

But airport chiefs today warned passengers to book Covid tests before arriving for their flight, saying passengers ‘cannot simply show up on the day without pre-booking’ a test.

Passengers continued to flood into the London airport today (pictured) to catch flights out of the country

Passengers were seen arriving at the London airport (pictured), despite more than 50 countries across the world imposing restrictions on UK travel

Passengers were seen arriving at the London airport (pictured), despite more than 50 countries across the world imposing restrictions on UK travel

The restrictions were put in place after a mutant strain of coronavirus was identified in the UK. Pictured: Passengers arriving at Heathrow Airport

The restrictions were put in place after a mutant strain of coronavirus was identified in the UK. Pictured: Passengers arriving at Heathrow Airport

However flights to the US can continue from Heathrow (pictured), so long as passengers provide a negative Covid test before they fly from the UK

However flights to the US can continue from Heathrow (pictured), so long as passengers provide a negative Covid test before they fly from the UK

But passengers arriving yesterday faced disruption to testing after a'plumbing issue' at one of the airport's on-site PCR testing facilities - operated by Collinson - forced one of the labs to partially shut. Pictured: Passengers arrive today

But passengers arriving yesterday faced disruption to testing after a’plumbing issue’ at one of the airport’s on-site PCR testing facilities – operated by Collinson – forced one of the labs to partially shut. Pictured: Passengers arrive today

All passengers from the UK flying anywhere in America will now need a negative Covid result to board any Virgin Atlantic flight. Pictured: A passenger arrives at Heathrow Airport today

All passengers from the UK flying anywhere in America will now need a negative Covid result to board any Virgin Atlantic flight. Pictured: A passenger arrives at Heathrow Airport today

The airline said it needed people to take a negative LAMP or PCR Covid-19 test to travel, which must be taken within 72 hours of departure. Pictured: Passengers arriving at Heathrow Airport

Yesterday, the Covid testing facility, run by Collinson, was forced to close part of one of its Terminal 2 labs - where Virgin flies from - over a leak in one unit. Pictured: A passenger at Heathrow Airport today

Yesterday, the Covid testing facility, run by Collinson, was forced to close part of one of its Terminal 2 labs – where Virgin flies from – over a leak in one unit. Pictured: A passenger at Heathrow Airport today

Passengers were today seen waiting at Heathrow's Terminal 2 as flights continue to leave the London airport

Passengers were today seen waiting at Heathrow’s Terminal 2 as flights continue to leave the London airport

Security staff at Heathrow Airport were seen speaking to customers waiting to fly out this morning

Security staff at Heathrow Airport were seen speaking to customers waiting to fly out this morning

Which countries have banned flights from the UK?

EU

All flights from UK banned – 

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden.

UK travellers allowed with a negative test – 

Cyprus, Greece – three negative tests required plus self-isolation. 

Still allowing own nationals to enter – 

Hungary, Portugal, Spain.  From today France is allowing French nationals, British nationals living in France and haulage vehicles to enter

REST OF EUROPE

All flights from UK banned –

Norway, Switzerland, Turkey,  

REST OF THE WORLD 

All flights from UK banned – 

Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Iran, Jamaica, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, The Philippines.

Still allowing own nationals to enter –

Singapore 

UK travellers allowed with a negative test – 

Liberia, US.   

The ‘plumbing issue’ came after the US imposed a test requirement for UK travellers after the identification of a new mutant strain of Covid-19 in the UK. 

All passengers from the UK flying anywhere in America will now need a negative Covid result to board any Virgin Atlantic flight.

The airline said it needed people to take a negative LAMP or PCR Covid-19 test to travel, which must be taken within 72 hours of departure.

Virgin Atlantic is currently running jets to New York-JFK, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston and Atlanta.

The airline hailed its partnership with Heathrow rapid testing lab Collinson as it confirmed the news yesterday. 

A spokesman for Virgin Atlantic confirmed to MailOnline yesterday: ‘Virgin Atlantic will be implementing new pre-departure Covid-19 testing for all customers travelling from London to the United States from December 24.

‘With the health and safety of our customers and people always our number one priority, we will require all travellers to present evidence of a negative LAMP or PCR Covid-19 test, taken within 72 hours of departure, including on-site at the airport.

‘Throughout the crisis, Virgin Atlantic has been championing a robust pre-departure passenger testing regime in order to reopen the skies at scale and safely replace border restrictions.

‘In August we were the first UK airline to implement on-site rapid testing for our crew and with our partner Collinson, we already offer pre-departure rapid testing for customers on several routes including Hong Kong and Barbados.

‘This is the latest addition to a range of rigorous, multi-layered health and safety measures to ensure that all customers fly safe and well.

‘We will work closely with our transatlantic partner Delta Air Lines on an aligned customer offering.

‘More information will be provided to customers due to depart from London Heathrow to the US in the coming days, including New York flights. We are in close contact with Governor Cuomo’s office to communicate these plans. 

Passengers were seen waiting in queues near to a sign saying that tests must be booked before travel

Passengers were seen waiting in queues near to a sign saying that tests must be booked before travel

However flights can to the US continue, so long as passengers provide a negative Covid test. Pictured: A passenger takes a Covid test (library image)

However flights can to the US continue, so long as passengers provide a negative Covid test. Pictured: A passenger takes a Covid test (library image)

All passengers from the UK flying anywhere in America will now need a negative Covid result to board any Virgin Atlantic flight

All passengers from the UK flying anywhere in America will now need a negative Covid result to board any Virgin Atlantic flight

Yesterday, the Covid testing facility, run by Collinson, was forced to close part of one of its Terminal 2 labs – where Virgin flies from – over a leak in one unit.

Singapore and the Philippines are the latest countries to ban UK flights from Christmas Eve 

Two more countries have imposed travel bans on the UK ahead of Christmas Eve after the identification of a new coronavirus strain in Britain.

Singapore will ban entry to UK travellers from Wednesday night. Health officials in the Philippines say they will suspend flights from the UK from Christmas Eve until December 31.

It brings the total number of countries restricting entry to UK travellers to at least 55.

The latest bans could also have a wider impact on British travellers, with Singapore a popular stop-off for those flying from the UK to Australia.

Singapore health officials say transit from the UK through the Southeast Asian city-state will not be allowed under the new travel ban.

The ministry of health website said: ‘All long-term pass holders and short-term visitors with recent travel history to the UK within the last 14 days will not be allowed entry into Singapore, or transit through Singapore.

‘This will also apply to all those who had obtained prior approval for entry into Singapore.’

Transit through the Philippines for UK travellers is also banned.

The issue impacted the speed customers got their tests back. 

It brewed up a perfect storm for those attempting to fly in ever-changing rules and regulations. 

A spokesman yesterday said: ‘None of our supplier relationships have changed. Due to a plumbing issue at Heathrow Airport on Sunday, we were forced to close part of our T2 testing facilities.’

‘While the facilities can currently still receive and swab travellers, the test processing area of the facility has been impacted and forced to close. Therefore, all T2 tests are being shuttled over to T5’s lab facilities for processing, which is having a knock-on effect on the speed of turn-around for both facilities.

‘We are working closely with Heathrow Airport to reopen the T2 labs as soon as possible, and in the meantime we are doing everything we can to ensure travellers receive their test results as quickly as possible.

‘We have also explained the situation to passengers and asked them to ensure that they are leaving adequate time for test results to be processed in line with airline check-in timings.’

On Monday British Airways, Virgin and Delta said they will require passengers traveling from the UK to just New York City to test negative after being asked by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to take action.

The airlines agreed on Monday as 40 countries around the world banned travel from the UK over a new strain of COVID-19 that has been detected there. The new strain is 70 percent more infectious than what has been seen previously.

Cuomo had asked the federal government to ban all travel from the UK but having had his request fall on deaf ears, he went to the airlines instead.

United Airlines said it would stick to its current procedures but would not enforce testing on its flights to Newark.

It was unclear if Delta and BA’s rules will enforce negative tests on flights to other parts of the US, or if it will only apply to flight to New York.

On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had called it ‘reprehensible’ and ‘grossly negligent’ that the federal government isn't acting to address the new strain of coronavirus circulating in the UK

On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had called it ‘reprehensible’ and ‘grossly negligent’ that the federal government isn’t acting to address the new strain of coronavirus circulating in the UK

WHAT THE AIRLINES ARE DOING

British Airways

Mandatory COVID-19 tests on all flights to NYC starting December 22.

No mandatory tests on all other flights. The airline also flies to LA, Dallas, Houston, Chicago and Miami

Delta and Virgin 

Mandatory tests on all flights to the US, starting with NYC and Atlanta from December 24. 

Travelers will be required to take a LAMP or PCR test up to 72 hours prior to departure adding another layer of safety when they travel. 

The airline also operates flights to Orlando and one-stop routes to other US cities 

They are telling people with flights booked to monitor their website for information.  

United Airlines

No mandatory COVID-19 tests on any flights. 

Twice daily flights from London to the US scheduled for 2021 

American Airlines 

Partner with BA. No mandatory tests on flights

But passengers on all of the airlines are expected to pay around £90 for their own tests then present them on departure.

Currently, travellers can only enter the US from the UK or continental Europe with an exemption. Generally if a person has been in Europe, Iran, China and or the UK in the last 14 days, they cannot get into the country as per Trump’s March executive order. American citizens and greencard holders can get back into the country.

Once they arrive in New York, the state law is that they test negative within 72 hours of arrival, quarantine for three days and then test negative again on the fourth day, or quarantine for 14 days.

The CDC guidance for people coming from overseas is that they quarantine for 14 days, if they can get into the country at all

But it has not stopped dozens of flights from the UK arriving in the US every day and comes as the worrying new variant spreads.

Passengers were today seen arriving in the US on Virgin flights from the UK, with some saying said they didn’t have to take a COVID test before boarding on Tuesday.

Passengers arriving at JFK from Britain on Tuesday told DailyMail.com they were surprised at the lack of screening prior to boarding their flight.

The rules are not officially introduced until December 24, though testing at Heathrow airport is taking place today.

Anatoly Grablevsky, 19, who arrived in New York today, said airport officials in Heathrow didn’t screen him with any pre-boarding questions about any symptoms he may have been suffering from or potential exposure.

‘They didn’t ask me anything,’ he said. ‘There was really nothing to that effect.’

Grablevsky flew back home to the US with Virgin Atlantic. He confirmed he wasn’t required to disclose evidence of a negative test as the mandate has not yet been brought into effect.

A cluster of passengers spill out from JFK's Terminal 4 on Tuesday, shortly after a Virgin Atlantic flight arrived from London Heathrow

A cluster of passengers spill out from JFK’s Terminal 4 on Tuesday, shortly after a Virgin Atlantic flight arrived from London Heathrow

Anatoly Grablevsky, 19, said airport officials in London Heathrow didn’t screen him with any pre-boarding questions about his health or potential symptoms

Anatoly Grablevsky, 19, said airport officials in London Heathrow didn’t screen him with any pre-boarding questions about his health or potential symptoms

The 19-year-old reiterated his surprise, however, at the seeming lack of safeguarding before he boarded his flight bound for the US.

‘People in the UK are very worried about [the new virus strain]. All of Europe is worried – and I was worried.

‘But I was surprised there was nothing really at the airport about it at all.’

Grablevsky said customs officials took down his details when he deplaned in JFK and was told the state would be in touch.

He said he received a text that required him to acknowledge that he understands he must now quarantine for 14 days.

Similarly, Brian Austin also arrived in the Big Apple from London on a Virgin Atlantic flight.

He said there was around 110 passengers onboard, all of whom were also not required to take a COVID test.

Austin didn’t speak to the pre-boarding protocol in the UK, however insisted he felt ‘very safe’ aboard the flight, and when he arrived in the US.

‘They went overboard with sanitation, they provided disinfectant wipes and they were seen to be disinfecting surfaces throughout – so we felt safe.

‘Also arriving here we felt it was a very safe experience. Officials were emphasising masks, emphasising hand sanitiser and so on – so we’re happy travellers.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk