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Morocco bans UK flights: New travel restrictions for Brits entering country due to high Covid rates

Morocco has today announced a ban on all direct flights to and from the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic as fears grow over the new Delta variant.

The North African country will enforce the restrictions from midnight tonight as it becomes the first country to close its borders to the UK amid soaring Covid infection rates.

Marrakesh is a key Moroccan destination for UK holidaymakers and the ban comes into force just days before the school half term break.

An easyJet flight from London Gatwick to Marrakesh that was scheduled to leave this afternoon has already been cancelled.

Morocco's largest airline Royal Air Maroc said in a statement that flights to and from Germany and the Netherlands will also be suspended.

It said: 'Upon decisions of national authorities and following the pandemic situation, flights from/to Germany, Netherlands and the UK are suspended from today, Wednesday October 20 at 23:59.

'To support our passengers during this period, unlimited changes of ticket date and destination, free of charge until December 15,2021 to the same or another destination are authorised.'

The Foreign Office has now updated is travel advice to reflect the ban, calling it a 'suspension for an unspecified period'.

It added: 'Travellers affected by flight cancellations should contact their airline or tour operator for advice on alternative routes via third countries (eg France, Spain) where flights are operating as normal.'

Coronavirus deaths in the UK yesterday rose to their highest daily level since early March.

Experts fear they may have been exacerbated by an even more infectious offshoot of the Delta variant called AY4.2. The proportion of cases made up by the sub-strain have doubled in a month, official figures show.

Morocco announced a ban on flights to and from the UK due to Covid pandemic, the country's largest airline Royal Air Maroc said as it also banned flights to Germany and the Netherlands

The Government said yesterday a further 223 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid — bringing the UK total to 138,852.

While the numbers are often higher on Tuesdays because of a lag in reporting deaths and cases over the weekend, this is the highest figure for daily reported deaths since March 9.

Meanwhile, the seven-day average for cases is standing at 44,145 cases per day — the highest level for almost three months. 

An easyJet flight to Marrakech from London Gatwick was grounded this afternoon in the wake of the ban.

A company representative told passengers on Twitter that due to the fact they will be unable to operate the return flight tomorrow, today's flight has been cancelled. 

A spokesperson for easyJet said: 'We have been advised this morning by the Moroccan government that flying between the UK, Germany and the Netherlands will be suspended from 11.59pm tonight until further notice.

'We have two flights operating from the UK from Manchester and Gatwick to Marrakech which we will operate as ferry flights to return customers due to travel back today.

'We are still awaiting clarity from the Moroccan authorities as to whether we are permitted to operate repatriation flights beyond midnight today.

'As a result of this decision, we will cancel our outbound flying from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands until November 30.

'Pending guidance from the Moroccan government we intend to fly inbound in October to offer passengers repatriation flight options.

'We are contacting all customers whose flights are cancelled with their options which include a free of charge transfer, receiving a voucher or a refund.' 

Morocco is the first country to close its borders to the UK due to the country's rising case figures.

A flight from London Gatwick to Marrakech (pictured) was grounded this afternoon in the wake of the country's ban on flights to and from the United Kingdom due to high Covid cases

According to the Our World In Data website, the rate of new Covid infections in a week per million people last Monday was 639 for the UK and 11 for Morocco. 

The Health Secretary is due to lead Downing Street's first Covid press conference in a month at 5pm.

It is the first Covid press conference — which were a mainstay when ministers announced restrictions on freedoms during the height of the pandemic — since September 14, highlighting the escalating fears about the winter crisis. 

The UK now has one of the highest weekly rates of new reported cases in the world.

Just over 67 per cent of the UK population has received two doses of vaccine, according to Government figures - compared with at least 75 per cent in Denmark, 79 per cent in Spain and 86 per cent in Portugal.

The weekly rate of new reported cases of Covid-19 in the UK has jumped from 367 cases per 100,000 people at the start of October to its current level of 463 per 100,000.

By contrast, rates have dropped to very low levels in neighbouring countries such as Spain (24 per 100,000), France (48) and Germany (80). 

SAGE fears there will be a fourth wave by the end of the year that may cripple the NHS.

Ministers are overseeing a rollout of booster jabs to over-50s, healthcare workers and the immunosuppressed to protect the health service as much as possible and prevent No10 having to reintroduce masks and WFH guidance as part of its 'Plan B'.

But experts have warned the top-up jabs are being dished out too slowly, with 5million vulnerable adults eligible for a third dose yet to receive one.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Sajid Javid warned there is 'huge pressure' on the NHS in England. 

The increase in cases has been in part blamed on the new variant, which academics estimate may be up to 15 per cent more transmissible than the original Delta, which rapidly became dominant in Britain in the spring before taking off worldwide. 

It has been detected in almost every part of the country, figures show, and it's thought to be behind almost 60 per cent of positive tests sampled sequenced in Adur, West Sussex. 

No10 today said it was 'keeping a very close eye' on AY.4.2 but insisted there is 'no evidence' that it spreads easier. Boris Johnson's official spokesperson also warned the Government 'won't hesitate to take action if necessary'.

Experts suggested the uptick of AY.4.2 — one of 45 sub-lineages of Delta — may be partly to blame, along with the return of pupils to classrooms from August and workers to offices.