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Angry British blow up surprise quarantine on seven Greek islands


British vacationers have shared their anger as they make the insane rush to return to the UK from seven Greek islands that will be quarantined from 4 a.m. tomorrow.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps announced on Monday that Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos will be released from quarantine on Wednesday from 4 a.m. on fears that there could be an increase in coronavirus cases.

Since the announcement, tourists have had to struggle to forge alternative plans. Many were frantically booking last minute flights so they wouldn't have to self-isolate for two weeks in the UK.

The flight operators TUI and Jet2 have canceled their holidays on the Greek islands of Crete, Santorini, Zakynthos and Mykonos due to the new quarantine rules. In the meantime, EasyJet has announced that it will cut flights following the government's decision.

Amid the travel chaos, the rush to return home is now underway, despite unimpressed travelers blowing up the government.

Nikki Funnell from Chester is in Santorini with her husband Simon. She told MailOnline: “Santorini is far safer than the UK. There's social distancing here, and I think it's a massive shame for the Greek tourism industry.

“I think the UK government is trying to blame other countries for the surge in cases in the UK, which is clearly not the case.

“I'd much rather be here than at home, it's definitely that much safer. Fortunately, me and Simon work from home but I have to cancel any plans I have on my return as I have to stay now. Our friend James has to take 2 weeks off. & # 39;

Nikki Funnell from Chester is in Santorini with her husband Simon and says she feels safer in Greece than in the UK

The Minister of Transport announced that Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete (picture), Santorini and Zakynthos will be put on the “red” list on Wednesday from 4 a.m.

The Minister of Transport announced that Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete (picture), Santorini and Zakynthos will be put on the “red” list on Wednesday from 4 a.m.

Greece as a whole is still well below the UK's threshold on quarantine measures - but some of the Greek islands have higher case numbers

Passengers who came to Gatwick from the islands in question today told MailOnline about the emotional roller coaster ride they had experienced in the past 24 hours.

An NHS official, who asked not to be named because her job prevented her from speaking to the press, said she was forced to come home after a single night in Santorini after the government announced the quarantine list would have.

She said, “I had to come back. I work for the NHS. I had planned a week trip so that I could relax for the first time this year.

“It was frustrating to come back after one night, but it is what it is.

“I had a very nice dinner at the resort. I swam a little in the sun. Luckily I didn't have to spend a lot to get my flight home, only £ 99.

"It feels like a whirlwind."

19-year-old Laura Elliott, of Horley, Surrey, had to cut her week-long trip to Santorini in half to start at Canterbury Christ Church University and study elementary education on Monday.

She said, & # 39; It was a very busy flight. It was completely full.

“But I had to get a flight because I couldn't quarantine myself on my return.

“I had to spend £ 99 but my friend out there had to pay £ 250 to get home, so it made quite a difference there.

“I was supposed to be there for a week, but had to come home three days early.

“I was out there with my two cousins ​​but they decided to stay out there as they can work from home to be quarantined.

“I'm starting university on Monday. I just thought, oh god, I have to get home asap! I can't afford not to start university on time! & # 39;

Bruce Calder, 30, a food production supervisor, and Meghann Bamm, 28, an assistant manager, a couple from Kettering for 18 months, also had to cut their trip to Santorini by three nights.

He said, “It was obviously frustrating. It just feels like Santorini was chosen at random.

“When they announced that they were Greek islands, we didn't think Santorini would be on the list.

“The first thing I did when I saw the news was check out Skyscanner and book a trip home as soon as possible.

“We flew out of Heathrow, but Gatwick was the only option we had. We spent 100 pounds each.

“I had previously been followed because a guy got it at a pub where I drink, so I had already been home for two weeks, and I didn't do that again when I got back.

“The work would not have been very happy. So we decided to shorten the vacation by three nights. We should be out there for a week so we made it short.

& # 39; We had a great time until it was announced. When it was announced, the only thought on my mind was just to come home. & # 39;

Nadia Frost, 32, and Dave Hoey, 33, are a married couple who work in retail in Cambridge and were forced to pay out £ 160 each to avoid missing out on lost wages. The couple spent 10 nights in Crete and cut their 11-night trip by one day.

Passengers returned to Gatwick Airport in droves from the Greek islands today to avoid the quarantine period

Passengers returned to Gatwick Airport in droves from the Greek islands today to avoid the quarantine period

This couple was all smiling at Gatwick Airport after making their way back to the UK safely long before the 4am cut-off

This couple was all smiling at Gatwick Airport after making their way back to the UK safely long before the 4am cut-off

She said, “We had to come back today. We would come back tomorrow which is frustrating.

“We both work in retail, so we can't work from home. We had to weigh the cost of the flights against the money we'd get from work and decided to go back.

“As soon as we saw that Crete would be on the quarantine list, there was a mad rush to book tickets to get home.

& # 39; The website crashed because obviously so many people were trying to do the same thing. We are so happy that we both got tickets and got home before it went into effect.

& # 39; It was a nightmare. The website also crashed when we struggled to check in so we had to get to the airport in Chania early and spend a couple of hours at the airport.

“It wasn't until we were on the flight that we looked at each other and thought, ok, we made it.

“It was an amazing journey and I'm glad we did it. We were out there 10 nights so it's not like we don't have a lot of time out there.

"I know some people at the resort we were in had to go home after a night or a couple of nights."

But there were some people who chose a lucky date to return from trips abroad.

Dave Paul, 63, a retired quality manager from Southampton, also arrived on the Santorini flight to London Gatwick.

He said, “Fortunately, we booked our trip in advance and came back today.

“At our resort, a lot of people tried desperately to get on our flight.

"The government doesn't know that announcing these last minute quarantine measures will ruin your vacation."

Stanley Leach, a 21 year old sales rep, and friend Faye Annes, a 19 year old student, both from Cambridge, thanked their lucky stars for coming back from Zakynthos today as they missed the start of the University of Leeds, to study law on September 12th.

He said, “Fortunately, we came back today.

“I would have been so upset if we had quarantined. Tomorrow is Faye's 20th birthday so you don't want to spend that indoors.

She said, “It's my birthday tomorrow and I'm going to university to start on the 12th. That would have been impractical to say the least.

"I think I wouldn't have gone to college until two weeks later and would have missed everything."

A passenger in a mask returned to Gatwick in time from the Greek islands

A passenger in a mask returned to Gatwick in time from the Greek islands

Numerous travelers rolled their suitcases through Gatwick after landing in time to avoid quarantine

Numerous travelers rolled their suitcases through Gatwick after landing in time to avoid quarantine

30 year old Ruth Forster-Town from Walthamstow, who works in IT, came back to Gatwick from Mykonos.

She said, “It didn't really impress me because I came back today.

“I Googled the flights just in case and a single flight home would have cost £ 350. It's not too much for anyone.

“I work in IT so I can work from home. I am one of the lucky ones.

I was in Mykonos for four days. It was a concern for my friends who had to go straight to work and couldn't be quarantined.

"I have a friend who's going straight to a hospital from here tomorrow."

One young woman said she partied in Mykonos for a month and was lucky with her flight home.

She declined to give her name and said, “I was in Mykonos from August 12th until today. We just had luck.

"We booked the flights a few days ago so we were lucky enough to be able to come back and not have to be banned."

One woman who gave her name as Carol said the Mykonos airport was not as busy as she expected.

She said: & # 39; Our ticket was already booked for today. It was a total relief. I was there a little over a week.

& # 39; We were very lucky that we booked it in January. It could have been a total mess.

“I expected the airport to be a nightmare, but it was actually okay. The flight was very busy but it was the same as the flight to Mykonos.

“I was on a girls vacation with a friend.

& # 39; We had a great time. In all honesty, I was concerned about the news, but not too concerned as it would be no problem to quarantine when we get home.

"I'll probably be a little safer when I'm home anyway."

Vacationers also criticized the government for officials' response to rising coronavirus cases on the continent.

Joel Williams, a father of one from Bristol, had to leave his wife and young son and fly back to the UK. He paid £ 350 for a flight to Heathrow and an additional £ 36 for a bus from West London.

He said he would have to cut his trip off after just three days and return to the UK or lose nearly £ 800 in lost wages if he stayed in Greece and had to take unpaid leave while isolating with the rest of the family.

The 36-year-old said: “This government has no idea what it is doing.

“They have made so many wrong decisions in the past few months that they are desperate to do what they believe is right for the majority of voters, regardless of whether this is in line with the messages that have already been sent to the public or the data that they have to provide.

“In particular, with the imposition of these quarantines on Greek islands, I believe they would not have been set up had both the Scottish and Welsh governments not done so first.

"It seems like these initial decisions were made by the respective governments for political reasons, either to play a game with Downing Street or to divert attention from their own worrying increases in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks." rather than making a huge difference to limit the spread of the virus.

“Certainly it is more of a priority for the UK and the decentralized governments to focus on policies that reduce community-level transfers that will actually make a difference.

"I'm also not sure if (Grant) Shapps or any of the Tories really understand the pain they are causing a public that, by and large, diligently adheres to quarantine rules while prominent government officials break the rules.

& # 39; (They have) suffered, continue to face financial uncertainty and have now waited months, using the savings to get away. They cut their vacation short or left it ruined with the stress of knowing they have to go back and go unpaid. '

Since the announcement, tourists have struggled to come up with alternative plans, with many frantically booking last-minute flights

Since the announcement, tourists have struggled to come up with alternative plans, with many frantically booking last-minute flights

Matt Walker, 34, from West Yorkshire also hit the government, announcing that his daughter will now have to miss kindergarten because of the quarantine.

He said, “I just think the situation is stupid as so few cases here in Crete and Tui are not helping anyone here to get home early.

Lucky couple who narrowly escaped the enforced quarantine stamp system "completely ridiculous"

One happy couple who narrowly escaped the prospect of forced quarantine have classified the system as "completely ridiculous".

Lewis Ross, a 30-year-old eBay operations manager from Richmond, and 23-year-old friend Lauren Phillips, a PA from Twickenham, flew back to London Heathrow from Athens on British Airways at 10 a.m. today – 20 hours before the forced quarantine.

They had spent 10 days in Mykonos and Athens.

He said, “Fortunately, we would always come back today.

"Our flight was full because it was full of people trying to cancel their flights and come back today."

Lauren said: & # 39; It was completely ridiculous. There were so many people in Mykonos trying to find a way home and rearranging their flights.

Lewis added: “When the rumors surfaced that the Greek islands would be put on the travel quarantine list, we were nervous.

“But once it was 48 hours I didn't think it would be a problem as they had to let us know. I didn't think it would be a problem once we got past the last 48 hours. & # 39;

Lauren continued, “We were fully prepared for the fact that if we go on vacation we may have to isolate ourselves when we get home.

"It wouldn't have been a problem for either of us."

And Lewis said: “I was supposed to go to Spain 13 days before we left for Greece, but because of the risk that was canceled there immediately. We were really lucky. & # 39;

“My daughter will not be able to go to kindergarten, so we have to take time off to look after her. We also need to quarantine for her birthday so that her party has to be canceled.

“I think they play politics. After Scotland was quarantined, I felt the pressure on the government was too great. I just hope they know how much disruption they are causing. We tried to book a flight home but prices doubled before our eyes. & # 39;

One happy couple narrowly escaped the prospect of forced quarantine when they flew back from Greece today.

Lewis Ross, a 30-year-old eBay operations manager from Richmond, and 23-year-old friend Lauren Phillips, a PA from Twickenham, flew back to London Heathrow from Athens on British Airways at 10 a.m. today – 20 hours before the forced quarantine.

They had spent 10 days in Mykonos and Athens.

He said, “Fortunately, we would always come back today.

"Our flight was full because it was full of people trying to cancel their flights and come back today."

Lauren said: & # 39; It was completely ridiculous. There were so many people in Mykonos trying to find a way home and rearranging their flights. & # 39;

Another traveler, who wasn't so lucky, said they swapped the Canary Islands for Greece after their vacation was canceled when Spain was suddenly put on the quarantine list.

After monitoring the quarantine announcements on Thursday, effective Saturday, we decided to only travel a week on a Friday to shorten our vacation and make sure we weren't at risk of quarantine.

"We're two hard-working public sector employees who haven't had a vacation since March. We now have two weeks of quarantine for a one-week vacation."

Another traveler also admitted that they were "caught" by the announcement.

They said: I have carefully monitored both the 7- and 14-day infection rates and the government's decisions to closely monitor the situation.

My intention was that we would book the first flight home when the numbers rose and the murmur of isolation periods appeared.

& # 39; However, yesterday's decision totally caught us.

"It came on a Monday, not Thursday as usual. The decision is completely illogical. Most of the cases in Greece were on the mainland and not on the islands."

Others have used social media to voice their concerns. On Twitter, the user said: & # 39; Currently in a half-full hotel in Zante. @grantshapps reckless decision to ban travel and a lack of advice for @TUIUK did not let us know what was happening. Bolton has more than five times the infection rate in Greece, but people don't have to quarantine themselves to leave? & # 39;

Another said: "3,000 cases in the last 24 hours in the UK and 156 in Greece but I have to quarantine at home, well done Boris."

A third added, "We're going to miss the deadline and there are no seats on flights from any of the airports. It's very frustrating with #crete having such a low rate and taking COVID precautions very seriously."

TUI canceled the holidays to Crete, Santorini, Zakynthos and Mykonos, while Jet2 canceled the holidays to Crete up to and including September 20th.

A TUI spokesperson said: & # 39; We welcome the announcement of the regional corridors to the islands and believe this is a positive step forward for the travel industry and for our customers, who we know they still want to travel.

& # 39; This is exactly the nuanced and pragmatic approach that we have called for.

Flights home before the quarantine period "left in five minutes" of the announcement, claims vacationers

A vacationer who faces quarantine after the government removed seven Greek islands from its non-quarantine list says flights home will be before the 4 a.m. Wednesday deadline, five minutes after the announcement was announced.

Public sector workers, who did not want to be named, said they swapped Canary Islands for Crete after their vacation was canceled.

The vacationer opted for a Friday-Friday public holiday hoping to beat any announcement of a change to the rules that normally go into effect on a Saturday.

But they were caught when Grant Schapps removed Crete and six other islands from the quarantine-free list starting at 4 a.m. tomorrow.

The vacationer said, “We are two hard working public sector employees who haven't had a vacation since March and we will now have two weeks in quarantine for a one week vacation.

Five minutes after the announcement, there were no more flights.

"Greece and Crete have a much lower infection rate than the UK."

The vacationer added: “The government needs to get a grip.

"You should publish the criteria for quarantine and when it will happen."

“However, we had to cancel the holidays in Crete, Santorini, Zakynthos and Mykonos just a few hours before the start of the trip, because the travel advice has changed.

& # 39; Customers traveling to these four islands before Tuesday September 22nd will be able to put another holiday up for sale or request a full cash refund for free.

"We urgently need to learn more now about how the government will put in place a robust airport testing regime to reduce the quarantine requirement for 14 days as it remains a barrier to travel for some."

A spokesman for Jet2 said: & # 39; Based on the latest government travel advice, we have decided to suspend Crete holidays through September 20th inclusive. We will contact the affected customers to discuss options for rebooking or receiving a credit / cash refund. & # 39;

Johan Lundgren, CEO of EasyJet, said: & # 39; After the introduction of additional quarantine restrictions on seven Greek islands and the ongoing uncertainty this brings for customers, demand is now likely to be further impacted and therefore lower than previously thought .

& # 39; We know our customers are just as frustrated as we are by the unpredictable travel and quarantine restrictions.

"We asked the government many weeks ago to adopt a targeted, regionalized, more predictable and structured quarantine system so that customers could travel plans with confidence."

The current infection rate in Greece is around 19 cases per 100,000 – well below the 20 threshold.

Vacationers report huge price increases for their return trip, with some having to pay out three times more than planned.

The accountant Julie Frew has a tight window of only three hours between her planned arrival in Birmingham and the limit value.

The 46-year-old has been in Crete with her 48-year-old partner David Wort for almost two weeks, fearing that a minor delay on the way home could mean that both the quarantine and 23-year-old daughter Lauren and she will be quarantined have to have two small children who will be back in kindergarten in the coming days.

She told MailOnline: “The next 24 hours will definitely be about biting our fingernails.

“I don't understand because it seems safer here than in the UK.

“It was very quiet, there is hardly anyone on the beaches, all employees are wearing masks and there are hand sanitisers on every table.

"It's not like it's a party island, everything closes until midnight, and I think only one or two cases a day have been reported for the past few weeks compared to our thousands – we had no qualms about coming here."

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Are you trying to get back from Greece by 4am tomorrow? Let us know: danny.hussain@mailonline.co.uk

“The government just doesn't seem to know what it's doing, it quotes different numbers and it's like playing Russian roulette.

“We're both very angry and frustrated about it because we've followed the rules throughout the lockdown and it feels like we're being punished.

“We have been looking forward to this vacation for months and it was a well-deserved break from a very tough year.

"Fortunately, none of us have been able to lose or pay jobs through quarantine, but I am sure many others face the threat."

Beth Maybury, 24, from Leeds reiterated Ms. Frew's view that Crete is more comfortable than the UK.

She said: “We felt 100% safer here than we did back in Leeds as all staff are wearing masks and the areas are much less crowded.

& # 39; Bars etc just seem to be a lot quieter, the hotel doesn't even seem half capacity so there is plenty of space around the pool / beach. There just seems to be a lot more awareness of masks.

“We live near the White Rose (shopping center) in Leeds, where people keep ignoring social distancing measures while shopping and dining.

“I was nervous about going out to eat or drink in the UK because it's too crowded if no one is following the rules, which is exactly the opposite of what I'm feeling here.

Julie Frew and David Wort are returning to the UK just three hours before the quarantine deadline, fearing the consequences of their flight being delayed

Julie Frew and David Wort are returning to the UK just three hours before the quarantine deadline, fearing the consequences of their flight being delayed

“I worked throughout the lockdown as I am a key worker and I was so nervous about doing anything outside of work. I had to fly for four hours to be comfortable. & # 39;

Meanwhile, writer Fiona Perrin, who was celebrating 10 years on the island with husband Alan O & # 39; Reilly, booked an earlier flight to get home but had to more than triple the initial cost.

She said, “We planned to come back on Wednesday and thought we would be fine as the quarantine list is usually posted later in the week.

& # 39; It was just the shock to see the price rise before our eyes, literally when I got my credit card I looked up and it was up again, it was exceptional.

According to Matt Hancock, the government plans to test arrival in the UK for Covid "as soon as it is practical" in order to cut the two-week quarantine in half

Matt Hancock today insisted that coronavirus testing for arrivals in the UK be rolled out "as soon as practicable".

The health minister said the government has recognized the severity of the 14-day quarantine requirement on the travel industry.

He warned that only one test at the airport "does not work" because too many asymptomatic cases would be missed.

However, he confirmed that the government is working on a plan to screen immigrants after around eight days that could potentially cut the quarantine period in half.

"It's one of the things we want to focus on once it's practical," Hancock told an LBC radio phone.

Ministers were shocked by the Tory's mounting anger over disastrous quarantine policies, with allegations that 110,000 aviation-related jobs are at stake.

The rules continued to be questioned as the number of cases in the UK is now approaching the threshold above which it imposes isolation rules on other countries.

The government is considering two options to open the skies and save the Covid-ravaged economy.

Under the first, passengers would receive an airport test upon arrival, followed by a second test a few days later. The second option is a single test after five to eight days of self-isolation.

But aviation chiefs are furious at the slow progress and want to commit to limit tests by the end of the week.

“We have to go back to work and because we're renovating a house that is six months behind schedule due to Covid and we didn't want to close our construction site again.

"Luckily, it's not too catastrophic in our case, but I think there will be a lot of people who will take two weeks without pay."

In his announcement in the House of Commons, Shapps said he would not follow Scotland's example in imposing restrictions on arrivals from Greece as a whole.

The grim news came when the cabinet minister announced that the quarantine system for England was being revised to reflect the very different risk profiles of some islands.

The Joint Biosecurity Center will now consider islands separately from their mainland as far as possible.

"For the first time, we have the data and the ability to add and remove specific islands from quarantine while providing maximum protection for the public," he told MPs.

Despite the Transport Secretary's plan to put more "red" list targets, England's approach to introducing quarantine remains less stringent than Scotland and Wales. Scotland has placed travel quarantine on all of Greece, while Wales has banned travel to a greater number of Greek islands.

The Federal Foreign Office has updated its guidelines to discourage all but essential travel to the seven islands, but not to Greece in the broader sense.

The announcement was widely welcomed by the vacation industry as a step in the right direction.

Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “It is very welcome that the government is changing its quarantine policy and reopening some islands to UK tourists without the need to quarantine them.

“Regional corridors are vital to keeping travel and tourism alive and I hope they will clear the confusion of various UK governments that have different approaches to individual countries.

"It is sad news for the Greek islands, which cannot open yet, but I hope this policy gives them the impetus to get their cases under control."

However, there have been complaints that the government is acting too slowly.

A spokesman for British Airways' owner, IAG, said: “It was already clear in July that islands should be treated separately. The government is too slow to make obvious decisions.

“For most families, summer is now over and the damage to industry and economy is done. We have to continue testing. We are way behind other countries in terms of a more nuanced approach. & # 39;

Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon criticized the government's handling of the pandemic, describing its response as "chaotic".

He said: “The government's response to the Covid-19 crisis has been downright chaotic. A clear strategy was missing on almost every corner and this failure was acutely felt in aviation.

“Even when the virus peaked, millions of passengers came from all over the world for months without any restrictions placed on them. When the restrictions were put in place, we were one of only a handful of countries in the world that had not taken any action to put restrictions in place at that time. & # 39;

Grant Shapps told the Commons that he would not follow Scotland's example in proposing restrictions on arrivals from Greece as a whole

Grant Shapps told the Commons that he would not follow Scotland's example in proposing restrictions on arrivals from Greece as a whole

The quarantine arrangements continued to be questioned as the number of cases in the UK now approaches the threshold above which it imposes isolation rules on other countries

The quarantine arrangements continued to be questioned as the number of cases in the UK now approaches the threshold above which it imposes isolation rules on other countries

It came after Matt Hancock insisted that coronavirus testing be introduced for arrivals in the UK "as soon as it is practical" to ease quarantine measures.

The health minister said the government has recognized the severity of the 14-day isolation requirement on the travel industry.

He warned that only one test at the airport "does not work" because too many asymptomatic cases would be missed.

However, he confirmed that the government is working on a plan to screen immigrants after around eight days that could potentially cut the quarantine period in half.

"It's one of the things we want to focus on once it's practical," Hancock told an LBC radio phone.

Ministers were shocked by the Tory's mounting anger over disastrous quarantine policies, with allegations that 110,000 aviation-related jobs are at stake.

The rules continued to be questioned as the number of cases in the UK is now approaching the threshold above which it imposes isolation rules on other countries.

The government is considering two options to open the skies and save the Covid-ravaged economy.

Under the first, passengers would receive an airport test upon arrival, followed by a second test a few days later. The second option is a single test after five to eight days of self-isolation.

But aviation chiefs are furious at the slow progress and want to commit to limit tests by the end of the week.

Leaders like Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham and Luton have given the Prime Minister seven days to replace mandatory self-isolation with Covid-19 tests at airports.

In the Daily Telegraph's letter, also addressed to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, 20 airport bosses claimed testing, among other measures, could save 110,000 jobs across the industry.

Having already lost more than £ 4 billion to less traffic during the pandemic, they wrote: “We cannot see an end to this struggle right now, and without robust government support, there is a real possibility that irreparable damage will be done to what was once the world's best aviation sector . & # 39;

Led by Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, Conservative Chairman of the Airport Operators' Association, the signatories stressed that testing along with regional travel corridors is critical to opening up travel.

It is also believed that numerous Tory MPs will call on the government today to support testing at airports to remove a "travel barrier".

TUI Managing Director Andrew Flintham also criticized the lack of tests at airports last night, writing in the Daily Telegraph: "This government wants to get people back to work – but what happens when there is no work to return to?"

To move the Mail's campaign forward, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said yesterday that a test regime was being reviewed, but was "not a silver bullet" to end the quarantine.

*** Are you trying to return from Greece before 4am tomorrow? Let us know: danny.hussain@mailonline.co.uk ***

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