The UK has banned travel from South America and Portugal over reports of the spread of a new Brazilian variant of coronavirus.
According to Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, the urgent decision would take effect from 4 am on today, Friday, January 15.
While announcing the 16 banned destinations over Twitter, Mr Shapps also explained that the measure does not apply to British and Irish Nationals and third-country nationals with residence rights, however, passengers returning from these destinations must self-isolate for Ten Days along with their households.
“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,” his tweet read.
The African country of Cape Verde, an island which also has links to Portugal, and the Central American nation of Panama, have also been included.
On Wednesday, January 13, Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed concern as experts claim that the strain could be resistant to vaccines.
The British territory of the Falkland Islands, off the coast of Argentina, does not appear to be impacted by the move, which comes after days of mounting pressure on the government to act after fears were raised about the Brazilian strain.
Scientists analysing the Brazilian variant believe the mutations it shares with the new South African strain seem to be associated with a rapid increase in cases in locations where previous rates are thought to be very high.
Meanwhile, the Government was facing criticism for delaying a requirement for travellers arriving in England to receive a negative Covid-19 test before departure.
The requirement for arrivals – including UK nationals – by boat, train or plane to test negative for Covid up to 72 hours before leaving the country of departure was due to come into force at 4 am on Friday. But it has been pushed back until the same time on Monday, amid concern that guidance on which tests would be accepted had not been published early enough.