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15 Mar, 2020 05:56

Long lines beset US airports with passengers reportedly waiting up to 10 HOURS to get through due to Covid-19 screening (PHOTOS)

Long lines beset US airports with passengers reportedly waiting up to 10 HOURS to get through due to Covid-19 screening (PHOTOS)

Thousands have lined up in long queues to get their bags and pass customs at airports across the US, with photos of the crowds going viral. The chaos has been blamed on enhanced coronavirus checks under the European travel ban.

Also on rt.com US to suspend all travel to UK & Ireland from Monday night due to pandemic

O'Hare Airport in Chicago, Illinois, one of world’s busiest airports by passenger traffic, has been overwhelmed with a sea of people, with photos and videos by stranded travelers showing long lines leading up to the baggage line and customs. The average waiting time is reportedly from six to 10 hours.

Ironically, the commotion appears to be a direct consequence of the US' newly-introduced 30-day ban on all travel from Europe that came into effect earlier this week and is aimed at stopping the spread of the virus. The ban makes an exception for American citizens, their spouses, parents, other relatives as well as permanent residents, who are allowed to return home. However, those who are willing to fly back to the US can do so only via one of 13 specially designated airports and must be subjected to a stringent coronavirus screening.

With the situation at the airport not getting any better despite outrage on social media and calls for the federal government to intervene, police have reportedly started handing out disinfectant wipes and water bottles. People in the crowds were spotting wearing masks.

State authorities have squarely blamed the administration of US President Donald Trump for causing the havoc.

“The federal government needs to get its s@#t together. NOW,” Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker tweeted.

Pritzker appealed to Trump directly on Twitter, arguing that the state has no role to play in the crisis as customs are “under federal jurisdiction.”

Bombarded with angry messages, the airport has also pointed finger at the federal government, saying that they lack sufficient staff to process all the passengers in time due to the need to implement coronavirus-related guidelines.

“Customs processing is taking longer than usual inside the Federal Inspection Services (FIS) facility bc of enhanced #COVID19 screening for passengers coming from Europe," it stated on Twitter.

Similar scenes were witnessed at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Saturday.

The screening procedure, which also sees passengers of inbound flights filling out a short questionnaire, has almost brought the airport to a halt.

John F. Kennedy International Airport has not escaped a similar fate as passengers there were also stuck in lines waiting for their turn to be processed.

Responding to the backlash, Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said that the government is “working to add additional screening capacity.”

Admitting that the massive backlogs have been “stressful,” he asked travelers to exercise “patience,” noting that it takes only about 60 seconds for medical staff at the airport to screen patients.  

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