UK bans travel from South America and Portugal over new variant fears
The ban from South America and Portugal will come into effect on Friday
The United Kingdom has today announced a ban on all incoming flights from South America and Portugal due to fears over a new variant of Covid-19 which has been detected in the Brazilian state of Amazonas.
The new variant, which has also been detected in Japan among four travellers who had been in Brazil, is believed to have 12 variants.
In a tweet on Thursday, Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said that he was banning travel from all South American countries and Portugal as of 4am on January 15th.
I’ve taken the urgent decision to BAN ARRIVALS from ARGENTINA, BRAZIL, BOLIVIA, CAPE VERDE, CHILE, COLOMBIA, ECUADOR, FRENCH GUIANA, GUYANA, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, PERU, SURINAME, URUGUAY AND VENEZUELA – from TOMORROW, 15 JAN at 4AM following evidence of a new variant in Brazil. 1/3
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) January 14, 2021
He added, however, that an exemption would be made for hauliers travelling from Portugal.
"There is an exemption for hauliers travelling from Portugal (only), to allow transport of essential goods," he said.
He added: "This measure does not apply to British and Irish Nationals and third country nationals with residence rights – but passengers returning from these destinations must self-isolate for TEN DAYS along with their households"
Speaking to the Commons Home Affairs Committee yesterday, prime minister Boris Johnson failed to promise a travel ban from South America, saying: "We already have tough measures ... to protect this country from new infections coming in from abroad.
"We are taking steps to do that in respect of the Brazilian variant."
Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, played down the prospect that the new variant would result in more severe symptoms.
“What we're seeing is that mutations are cropping up across the world which are quite similar in terms of the changes … the Brazilian one, like the South African one, has a change of the genetic code, at position 484, and that changes a bit of a shape of the protein," he said.
“The changes that we're seeing with the variants are largely around increased transmission – it makes it easier to get it from one person to another, it makes it easier therefore to catch."