Long lines beset US airports with passengers reportedly waiting up to 10 HOURS to get through due to Covid-19 screening (PHOTOS)
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.
This is the scene at O’Hare airport. The traveler who took the photo said it’s a 6-hour wait for bags then on to customs for 2-4 more of waiting in shoulder-to-shoulder crowds. Police are handing out water and disinfectant wipes. @fly2ohare#ord#coronavirus#COVID19pic.twitter.com/UTx9E0nj1s— Brooke Geiger McDonald (@BrookeGMcDonald) March 15, 2020
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.
O'hare airport..we have some major entitlement issues as a society to work out pic.twitter.com/LhCkAX5Swa— CaddyInTheSky (@caddy_in) March 15, 2020
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.
CHICAGO✈️: A man shared this video of a crowd of people at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport on Saturday. The man said the people in this hallway were traveling from different countries & states. He said it took him 4.5 hours to get through.Video courtesy:Joe Rosengarten pic.twitter.com/jJJYEBaD0t— Louie_tran (@louie_tran) March 15, 2020
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.
The federal government needs to get its s@#t together. NOW.— Governor JB Pritzker (@GovPritzker) March 15, 2020
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.”
The crowds & lines O’Hare are unacceptable & need to be addressed immediately.@realDonaldTrump@VP since this is the only communication medium you pay attention to—you need to do something NOW.These crowds are waiting to get through customs which is under federal jurisdiction— Governor JB Pritzker (@GovPritzker) March 15, 2020
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.
We keep getting sent pictures of thousands people packed together in @DFWAirport customs lines. There are extreme lines because of #coronavirus questionnaires, but because of the lines, there's no way to keep distance to prevent spread... (@wfaa) pic.twitter.com/sf6TznoBBW— William Joy (@WilliamJoy) March 15, 2020
The screening procedure, which also sees passengers of inbound flights filling out a short questionnaire, has almost brought the airport to a halt.
Another look at what's happening inside @DFWAirport and the lines at customs. Travelers say they've been in line 3-5 hours... Airport telling people delays are due to "enhanced screening for passengers" who have been abroad. @NBCDFW Video: Dorothy Lowe pic.twitter.com/beVj4TAsDM— Katy Blakey (@KatyBlakeyNBC5) March 15, 2020
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.
JFK airport in New York City has turned into a #CoronaVirus breeding ground along side O'Hare in Chicago. Crowds waiting in a very long lines in close quarters with thousands of people to clear US Customs' useless enhanced #COVID19 screening measures.pic.twitter.com/fyr8fyT0vq— Alexander Higgins - Coronavirus Updates (@kr3at) March 15, 2020
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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