Travel bans have previously been introduced for those coming from Denmark and South Africa, in response to other new variants
Travel to the UK from more than a dozen South American countries and Portugal has been banned due to fears over the Brazilian coronavirus variant.
The government’s COVID-19 operations committee met at lunchtime to discuss the issue, with the ban announced shortly afterwards.
Transport 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.
This comes after the NHS is considering plans to discharge it’s patients into hotels as the nation’s hospitals become packed with COVID-19 patients, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has now confirmed, saying that it was “impossible to know” how long the nation-wide lockdown restrictions might last.
“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.”
Home Office minister Victoria Atkins earlier said that the government had “acted decisively” in the past following the development of new variants of the coronavirus being discovered 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.”
This comes after a new mutation of the COVID-19 virus has been discovered in Japan, with health officials in the country saying that it has similarities to that of the recently-discovered highly-contagious coronavirus variants that have been found in Britain and South Africa.