Travellers from South America and Portugal will be banned from arriving in the UK from Friday morning as a precautionary measure aimed at preventing the new Brazilian Covid variant from reaching the UK, the government has announced.
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said arrivals from a string of countries including Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia and Peru would be halted. He said Portugal had been included because of its close travel links with Brazil.
UK residents will be exempt from the new rules – but they and their families will have to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival.
The decision was made at a meeting of the ministerial Covid-O committee on Thursday morning, on the basis of evidence from experts on the Nervtag committee on new viruses.
Boris Johnson had hinted at fresh restrictions on Wednesday when he was grilled by MPs about the issue.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper asked the prime minister: “You were warned about the Brazil variant three days ago. We don’t know, yet, whether that variant could undermine the vaccination programme. Why aren’t you taking immediate action, on a precautionary basis?”
Johnson told her: “We’re putting in extra measures to ensure that people coming from Brazil are checked: and indeed stopping people coming from Brazil.”
It is unclear as yet whether the Brazilian strain may be vaccine resistant.
Direct flights between Brazil and the UK had already been banned last month, as the Brazilian government tried to prevent the highly-transmissable Kent variant of the virus arriving on its shores.