UK opens quarantine motels, pushes on with vaccine drive | Enterprise
LONDON (AP) – Britain’s newly refurbished quarantine hotels welcomed their first guests on Monday as the government tried to prevent new variants of the coronavirus from disrupting its fast-paced vaccination campaign.
Passengers arriving at London’s Heathrow Airport on Monday morning were escorted by security guards to buses that took them to nearby hotels.
The UK has given a first dose of coronavirus vaccine to nearly a quarter of the population, but health officials are concerned that vaccines may not work as well on some new strains of the virus, including one first identified in South Africa.
Under the new rules, people coming to England from 33 high-risk countries must spend 10 days at their own expense in designated hotels and have their meals delivered to their doorstep. In Scotland, the rule applies to arrivals from any country. International travel has already been slowed down by the pandemic, and the British are currently prohibited from vacationing overseas.
Critics say the quarantine hotels are being set up too late and the South African variant is already in circulation in the UK
On Sunday, the government achieved its target of giving the first of two doses of vaccine to 15 million of the UK’s most vulnerable people, including healthcare workers and those over 70.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited a vaccination center in London on Monday and praised the “incredible efforts” of scientists, medical professionals, pharmacists, military personnel and volunteers in achieving Europe’s fastest vaccine introduction.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the vaccination campaign is now being extended to people over 65 and people with underlying health conditions. The government intends to give a first vaccine to all over 50s by the end of April and a first vaccine to the entire adult population by September.
The UK had the worst coronavirus outbreak in Europe, with more than 117,000 deaths. Infections and deaths are now steadily declining, and the government announces it will release a “roadmap” to ease a nationwide lockdown on February 22nd.
Johnson is under pressure from some members of his ruling Conservative Party to lift the lockdown soon so businesses can reopen and people can visit friends and family.
The prime minister, who was accused of being too slow to blockade the UK last spring and then too quick to relax restrictions over the summer, is now adopting a more measured tone.
“We have to be very careful,” he said, adding that the steps to be announced next week would be “cautious but irreversible”.
Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, who advises the government on respiratory viruses, said officials are rightly cautious.
“What we don’t want to repeat is what has happened on previous occasions – namely to relax too quickly,” he told Good Morning Britain.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed in any way without permission.