Passenger goes through Heathrow in 10 mins with no checks despite mutant strain

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A woman returning to the UK from South Africa claims she was allowed to walk straight through Heathrow with no Covid checks.

That's despite fears about a new variant of the coronavirus originating in the country, against which vaccines may have limited power.

Journalist Sharon Feinstein had been visiting her mum in Johannesburg, where the mutant strain is rampant — although she received a negative test before her flight, the Mirror reports.

However, when she landed at the London airport on Monday she breezed through security in just 10 minutes with no one asking for her virus documents, which she had ready.

"I was in tears," she told the Daily Express.

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"I just couldn't believe what happened. I could have had Covid, they don't know where I am staying, they didn't ask.

"As a country, we're messing up."

Sharon flew via Doha in Qatar after British Airways offered her connecting flights on Qatar Airways, and was ushered towards Heathrow Terminal 5's e-gates after landing at lunchtime on Monday.

Sharon claims Border Force officials did not ask to see any of her forms and, after scanning her passport, she left.

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"I had everything ready, my certificate showing I had tested negative for Covid, filled in my passenger locator form, I had the entry and exit permits from South Africa," she said.

"No one asked for my Covid certificate. I didn't see anyone. I even looked for someone.

"The mutant variant in South Africa is rife. You can't believe how many people have it there and are really ill.

"People should have tests after five days and again after 14. That is what happened when I arrived in South Africa.

"They were incredibly scared of the British strain of the virus. Why can a third-world country get it right and we can't?"

Around 147 cases of the South African variant have so far been identified in Britain – but experts warn they are likely to be the tip of the iceberg.

A 'red list' of 33 high-risk countries has been compiled by officials including most of South America, southern Africa and Portugal, all of which have new Covid variants.

Anyone returning from these countries must isolate for 10 days in guarded hotels from Monday.

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An announcement that all arrivals must have a Covid test on the second and eighth day of self-isolation after they get here is also expected soon.

The new rules will not just apply to those heading into Britain from 'red list' but those self-isolating at home too.

In response to Sharon's claims, Environment Secretary George Eustice told Today: "We'll look at this but I think the obligation is on the carriers to ensure that people have had a test and that they've tested clear before they board the plane, so that is where that particular restriction comes.

"Obviously for people coming from high-risk countries from next Monday, they are also going to be required to quarantine in hotels where we can be really clear of exactly where they are."

The Department of Health said: "Throughout the pandemic, the Government has put in place proportionate measures that have led to some of the toughest border regimes in the world.

"It is important the Government continues to take the necessary steps to protect people and save lives."

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