Ban on all arrivals from South America and Portugal over Brazilian coronavirus variant
Post Dest : Travel to the UK from every country in South America, as well as Portugal, has been banned due to fears over the coronavirus variant first identified in Brazil.
The government’s COVID-19 operations committee met at lunchtime to discuss the issue – and the ban will come into effect from 4am on Friday.
ransport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted: “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.
“Travel from PORTUGAL to the UK will also be suspended given its strong travel links with Brazil – acting as another way to reduce the risk of importing infections. However, there is an exemption for hauliers travelling from Portugal (only), to allow transport of essential goods.
“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.”
Travel bans have previously been introduced for those coming from Denmark and South Africa, in response to other new variants that have been detected in those countries.
The discovery of another variant in the UK prompted many countries around the world to introduce travel bans for arrivals from the UK in the run-up to Christmas.
Home Office minister Victoria Atkins earlier told Sky News the government had “acted decisively” in the past following the development of new variants in other parts of the world.
Asked why travel between Brazil and neighbouring countries to the UK had not yet been closed off, she said: “Of course, people flying into the UK, whether from South America or elsewhere are required to have a 10-day quarantine period when they land in the UK. That is mandatory.
“In terms of the decision on travel measures, it takes a little bit of time.
“What we need to ensure is that when we make these very, very important decisions that have a huge impact on people’s personal lives, but also businesses, we have got to have a little bit of time to let that bed in.
“The prime minister was clear that measures will be taken, we have acted decisively in the past with both the Denmark and South African variants, so I wouldn’t want to speculate further at this stage.”
At Christmas, Brazil was among a number of countries to suspend all flights from or via the UK due to the emergence of a new COVID variant in Britain.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday told MPs that the government was “concerned” about the new Brazilian variant.
He said: “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.”
Mr Johnson said there were “lots of questions” over the Brazil variant, including whether it is resistant to COVID vaccines.
Meanwhile, the government is also under pressure after it delayed the introduction of pre-departure testing requirements for all international travellers to England.
People arriving in England from abroad will now have to prove they have tested negative for coronavirus from Monday and not Friday as originally planned.
Those who do not follow the rules face being hit with a minimum fine of £500, while the operator who transported them will also be penalised.
Arrivals will still have to quarantine for 10 days regardless of their test results.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the delay was to “give international arrivals time to prepare” after the full guidance was only published on Wednesday.
This is despite Mr Shapps’s department having announced the plans for new testing requirements last week.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper, the chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, posted on Twitter: “No guidance out with 2 days to go. And now delays.
“What on earth are they doing?”
Scotland has adopted the same approach, while Northern Ireland and Wales are expected to set out their own arrangements for pre-arrival testing soon.