Britons should not book holidays at home or abroad - minister

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FILE PHOTO: Britain's Transport Secretary Grant Shapps speaks during a virtual news conference in London
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LONDON (Reuters) - British people should not book a holiday domestically or abroad until more is known about the success of Britain's COVID-19 vaccination programme, transport minister Grant Shapps said on Wednesday.

Under new border restrictions, people arriving from countries where coronavirus variants are spreading will have to pay for 10 days of quarantine in hotels. Anyone who breaks the rules could face a heavy fine or a 10-year jail term.

Addressing the "shrinking chance" that anyone was considering booking a holiday, Shapps said it would be the wrong thing to do as going on holiday is illegal under current restrictions, he said.

"Until you know the route out of lockdown, which we can't know until we have more data, more information on vaccines, please don't go ahead and book holidays for something which, at this stage, is illegal to actually go and do, whether it's here or abroad," he told BBC Radio.

Britain has given a first COVID-19 vaccine dose to 12.6 million people but the government has said more information is required about the impact on transmission of the virus or new variants before it can lift the latest lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due on Feb. 22 to announce a plan for easing the lockdown.

Shapps said it was too soon to know what that would mean for the summer holiday period.

TUI Group, the world's biggest holiday company, has said it needs a summer recovery to relieve pressure on its finances and is banking on vaccinated Britons going abroad in the peak months.

It has said it has taken 2.8 million bookings, with 1.5 million from Britain.

Shapps said between 16,000 and 20,000 people were arriving in Britain each day, including hauliers.

After the hotel quarantine requirement comes into force on Monday, Shapps expects a decrease of arrivals from countries such as South Africa and Brazil where new variants have been detected.

(Reporting by Sarah Young and Kate Holton, Editing by William James and Timothy Heritage)

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