The news that Heathrow is opening a separate arrivals area for passengers coming from Red list countries is ‘too late’ says Ruth Cadbury MP.
‘Staff and travellers at Heathrow have been raising concerns about weaknesses in the arrivals process since more flights were permitted. ‘These include long queues in crowded arrival halls with red-list country passengers close to those coming from Green and Amber countries, and too few Border Force channels.
‘So many constituents work at Heathrow and could be at risk’.
LB Hounslow’s Director of Health Kelly O’Neill told The Chiswick Calendar last week that Hounslow suffered from having Heathrow, in terms of its high level of Covid infection. She told us there had been cases of hospitality workers catching Covid in hotels where people were in quarantine. A high percentage of Hounslow’s workforce relies on the airport for jobs.
Ruth Cadbury said she had raised the point about passengers from different zones mingling at Heathrow with the Aviation Minister, Robert Courts, when he came to a session of the Transport Committee.
‘It is good that a red-list country only arrival terminal is finally being opened – but yet again for our country, it’s too late’.
Inconsistent and poor infection control at hotels
She has also heard from Hounslow’s Director of Public Health that her team has discovered inconsistent and poor infection control at both quarantine and non-quarantine hotels.
‘She was also informed several days after they arrived, that Covid-infected seafarers were being transported to other Hounslow hotels by the shipping companies, with no quarantine, no prompt notification to her or to London’s Director of Public Health.
‘I have written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock about this’ said Ruth, ‘and raised it in Parliament, but am still awaiting a reply.
‘It was not surprising that local health teams saw a worrying uptick in the B1.617.2 Covid variant (that orginated in India) in parts of the borough and in parts of Hillingdon and Ealing.
‘They were already ramping up community hubs for testing and vaccinations, increasing community communications and door-to-door visits, before the Health Secretary announced in the Chamber that Hounslow, along with seven other council areas in England, had been designated a surge area.
Travel advice ‘shambles’
‘The following Monday (24 May) it emerged that these eitght council areas had been subject to restricted travel guidance for four days, yet no-one knew!
‘Health Secretary Matt Hancock came to the House three times over those ten days, but I only got drawn in the ballot of MPs once to be able to challenge him over this shambles.
During these sessions he had the nerve to say his department had been in close touch with the local councils – yet our experience is that this was clearly not true. There has still been no communciation from the Department of Health and the affected local authorities, to MPs and more importantly, to local people.
‘Following the emergence of the travel advice we had 24 hours of complete confusion, and cancelled events, until the Councils met Dr Jenny Harries and it emerged there were to be no travel restrictions.
‘And now, because of the failure to properly manage our national borders, lack of communication between Government and local council and health leaders, coupled with further mixed messages from Government, it appears we could be heading for yet another Covid wave’.
Ruth Cadbury is MP for Brentford and Iselworth. She has just been promoted to the job of Shadow Planning Minister, joining Labour’s Housing Communities and Local Government front bench team.
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