Social media influencers and reality television stars are being inundated with "relentless" abuse for jet-setting during the festive period, says an agent, as the UK continues to battle its rampant COVID-19 epidemic and devastating death toll.
Local influencers - many of whom appeared on the popular reality show Love Island - have been fleeing COVID-ravaged Britain to holiday hotspots, including Dubai and the Maldives, while the less privileged remain confined to their homes under stringent lockdown restrictions.
On Friday (local time), Downing St confirmed that all international arrivals to England - including citizens - will soon be required to present a negative test result 72 hours before their departure as part of a ramped up testing regime. Those who fail to do so will either be prohibited from travelling or issued a £500 (NZ$935) fine on arrival, but it's unclear whether those without a test result will be forced to quarantine.
The new rule, which will come into force later this week, means numerous Britons abroad will be required to rapidly find and undergo a COVID test before they are able to return home. It's believed around 100,000 Brits are currently overseas.
Now, social media stars and celebrities who swanned off overseas during the festive period are facing "relentless" abuse by disappointed fans and frustrated cynics alike, an unidentified agent told the Mirror.
The agent, who claimed an unidentified star received "death threats" following a recent trip to Dubai, acknowledged it was a "terrible look" for influencers to globe-trot to luxury resorts while the majority of Brits adhered to the strict measures.
"It's been relentless," the agent told the Mirror. "We warned them not to travel abroad while a lot of the nation is under severe restrictions as it's a terrible look, but they ignored it."
The source added influencers are frequently offered flights or accommodation by companies in return for highlighting products, businesses and services on social media. Work may consist of filming videos and taking promotional pictures, and sharing the content to their significant online audiences - allowing the stars to travel in exchange for publicity.
"But it has gone down like a lead balloon with their fans, and you have to wonder if it is really worth it," said the agent.
Stars of the hit reality show Love Island are among those who travelled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in recent months, with some jetting off while swathes of Britain remained in strict tier 3 and tier 4 lockdowns. However, others departed from areas under the more relaxed tier 2 restrictions in December, when international travel was permitted.
Before the beginning of the third lockdown, Love Islanders including Laura Anderson, Molly-Mae Hague, Tommy Fury, Maura Higgins, Chris Taylor, Amber Davies, Georgia Harrison and Kady McDermott were all pictured in Dubai - a popular hotspot as returnees are currently not required to quarantine upon arrival in the UK.
Although some have since returned to Britain, the likes of Anderson, McDermott and Harrison are understood to still be overseas.
Hague, 21, came under fire for a getaway to Dubai and the Maldives with her boyfriend Tommy Fury, who she met on the fifth series of Love Island in 2019.
The YouTuber and Instagram star responded to the social media backlash in December, defending the holiday and arguing the couple had left their Manchester home during tier 2.
"Please understand that Tommy and I left the UK from Cheshire which was in tier 2 at the time. We didn't break any rules coming away," she wrote in an Instagram post.
"If we knew these rules were going to be put in place then obviously we would have never left the UK..
As reported by local media, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed on Friday (local time) that no one will be permitted to depart for Britain by plane, train or ferry unless they present a "recognised" test result at check-in, along with a valid passport and visa if required.
In the coming week, passengers on planes, boats or trains will be banned from entering the UK if they do not have a negative test within 72 hours of departure. All travellers will require a 'passenger locator form' and face a £500 fine if they fail to comply. Children under 11 will be exempt, as well as hauliers.
A new, more infectious variant of the coronavirus has found a firm foothold in the nation, significantly inflating daily case numbers and contributing to Britain's escalating death toll. According to government figures, 59,937 new cases were recorded on Saturday, as well as 1,035 deaths, marking the fourth consecutive daily death toll - defined as deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test - over 1,000. The death toll reached a record 1,325 on Friday (local time).