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UK adviser says overseas summer holidays 'unlikely' due to COVID-19 variants

UK adviser says overseas summer holidays 'unlikely' due to COVID-19 variants
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An adviser on the United Kingdom’s health advisory group on Saturday said it is “extremely unlikely,” that citizens will be authorized to participate in holiday travel overseas this summer amid the spread of more transmissible variants of COVID-19. 

Mike Tildesley, who serves on the U.K.’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), told BBC Radio 4 that there could be a “real risk” of citizens bringing back additional variants of the infection as the U.K. attempts to combat ones already rapidly spreading within the country. 

"I think that international travel this summer is, for the average holidaymaker, sadly I think, extremely unlikely,” he said. 

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"What is really dangerous is if we jeopardize our vaccination campaign by having these variants, where the vaccines don't work as effectively, spreading more rapidly,” he added. 

Currently, U.K. citizens are not allowed to travel overseas except for a limited number of reasons, including education or work, and anyone who wishes to travel must submit a “Declaration to Travel” form to the government, according to the BBC. 

Tildesley said Saturday that the pandemic taskforce will be reporting to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on April 12 with more detailed information on when international travel can likely resume. 

While several of the companies that developed coronavirus vaccines are currently testing inoculations to be used against various COVID-19 variants, citizens are right now relying on doses that were specifically designed to prevent infections from the original strain of the virus. 

U.K. Health Minister Matt Hancock on Saturday announced that half of all adults in the country have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. 

“It’s so important because this vaccine is our way out of this pandemic," he said in a video address shared on Twitter. "So when you get the call, please come forward and get the jab, and join the majority of adults who’ve now been jabbed.”

While most countries, including the U.S., have developed a phased vaccination approach to ensure higher risk populations and essential workers get priority access to the vaccine, the U.K. has aimed to initially distribute as many first doses of the vaccine as possible, with delayed second shots. 

The U.K. has largely relied on the inoculations from AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech, both of which require two doses weeks apart.