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Boris Johnson has announced new border restrictions for travellers arriving in the UK from certain countries. Mr Johnson told MPs: “I want to make clear that under the stay at home regulations, it is illegal to leave home to travel abroad for leisure purposes and we will enforce this at ports and airports by asking people why they are leaving and instructing them to return home if they do not have a valid reason to travel.
“We have also banned all travel from 22 countries where there is a risk of known variants including South Africa, Portugal and South American nations.
“And in order to reduce the risk posed by UK nationals and residents returning home from these countries, I can announce that we will require all such arrivals who cannot be refused entry to isolate in Government provided accommodation, such as hotels, for 10 days without exception.
“They will be met at the airport and transported directly into quarantine. The Department of Health and Social Care is working to establish these facilities as quickly as possible.”
The import of a vaccine-resistant new strain of Covid would be a major blow to the UK’s jab programme.
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The UK is rolling out vaccines at rapid speed, with 6.8 million people already having received the first dose of a Covid antidote.
The Government is on course to have given all over-70s, care home residents and staff, and NHS workers a jab by February 15.
According to vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca, just one month later and a vast majority of the adult population could have received their first vaccine.
Chief executive Pascal Soriot said: “By March, the UK will have vaccinated maybe 28 to 30 million people.”
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“The Prime Minister has a goal to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February, and they’re already at 6.5 million.
“So they will get there.”
Anticipating the announcement, aviation industry leaders demanded the Government outline an “urgent road map for the reopening of air travel”.
The chief executives of British Airways, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic were among those to sign a joint letter to the Government warning the new isolation hotels would have a “dramatic impact” on business.
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They are calling on the Government to give the aviation industry “a bespoke support package that can get UK airlines through this crisis”.
The travel industry is anticipating a spike in demand once coronavirus restrictions ease, after a year in which the sector was decimated.
Tens of thousands of jobs were lost in 2020 as a result of trips being cancelled due to the virus crisis.
But there is believed to be a huge amount of pent-up demand for travel once restrictions are eased.
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