U.S. travellers return home to hours-long airport waits amid coronavirus pandemic

Weary travellers returning to the U.S. amid coronavirus-related travel restrictions were greeted by long lines and hours-long waits for required medical screenings at airports.

Posts on social media indicated passengers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport waited upward of four hours in winding lines, eliciting criticism from elected Illinois officials.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker tweeted at President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence, noting that the customs process is under federal jurisdiction and demanding they take action to address the crowds.

His concerns were echoed on Twitter by his fellow Democrats, Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth.

“This is unacceptable, counterproductive and exactly the opposite of what we need to do to prevent #COVID19,” Duckworth tweeted. “The Trump Administration must send more support to O’Hare immediately.”

While U.S. citizens, green card holders and some others are allowed to return home, travellers from Europe are being funnelled to one of 13 U.S. airports where they are subject to health screenings and quarantine orders.

Acknowledging the long lines at those airports in tweets posted just after midnight, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting secretary said the screenings take about a minute per passenger.

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