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by Gemma Handy

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Travellers heading to the UK – including British citizens – must now self-isolate for 10 days after arrival.

The suspension of the UK’s so-called ‘travel corridors’ came into force at 4am Greenwich Mean time yesterday.

It’s the latest measure implemented by Antigua and Barbuda’s second biggest tourism source market as Britain battles on to stem the spread of a new, highly contagious variant of the coronavirus.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the move was to “protect against the risk of as yet unidentified new strains” of Covid-19. It will remain in place until at least February 15.

“This is a global measure the UK has taken … it’s on the basis of the latest epidemiological assessment which has shown increased risk to the UK public from imported cases,” Resident British Commissioner Lindsy Thompson told Observer.

Britain’s travel corridors were introduced last summer to allow people travelling from some countries with low numbers of virus cases to come to the UK without having to quarantine on arrival.

Britons are currently barred from overseas travel except for a handful of permitted reasons such as work. And how much of an economic impact the UK’s change of rules will immediately have on Antigua and Barbuda remains to be seen. But if the travel corridors are not reinstated next month when Britain’s third national lockdown is due to end, it could have a palpable impact on visitor numbers.

Thompson did however suggest tough new restrictions in place in Britain could also offer a boon.

“One thing that we have noticed is that a number of British nationals who would normally be returning to the UK around this time of year have decided to extend their stay in Antigua and Barbuda,” she said. “So more short-term visitors are spending longer here – and, I’m sure, spending money and enjoying the beauty of the country,” she added.

Some local tour operators have also reported instances of tourists lengthening their vacations to escape Covid-related restrictions – and wintry weather – in their homelands.

As of this Thursday, anyone flying from Antigua and Barbuda to the UK must also show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than three days before departure. Those who arrive without it risk a fine of £500 pounds (EC$1836).

Meanwhile, more than four million people in the UK have now received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine. However, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said UK data showed more people were in hospital with Covid than ever.

To date, more than two million people have died of the virus which has infected more than 95 million across the globe. The US still tops the list as the most infected country in the world with 24 million confirmed cases and 400,000 deaths.

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