South America, Panama, Portugal and Cape Verde will be subject to a travel ban from 4am on Friday over concerns about the Brazilian coronavirus variant, Grant Shapps has announced.

The move comes amid the emergence of a new strain of coronavirus in Brazil, with concerns about whether it could be more dangerous.

The ban will not apply to British and Irish citizens and foreign nationals with residence rights who will still be able to travel but must isolate for 10 days.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he is “very concerned” about the variant, adding that extra measures are being put in place to prevent the variant being imported to the UK.

Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins said that the Government was keeping coronavirus restrictions under “constant review”.

The news comes as the new UK Covid variant, B117, continues to rapidly spread across the country, and weeks after direct flights from South Africa were banned to try to limit the spread of the more contagious variant coming from there.

The Transport Secretary announced the news that there will be travel bans from certain countries as a result on Twitter.

“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”, he said.

“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”

There have been many mutations in Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, since it emerged in 2019, some more significant than others.

However, this is to be expected as this virus is an RNA virus, like the flu and measles, and these tend to mutate and change.

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 attack rates are thought to be very high.

Meanwhile, the Government was facing criticism for delaying the enforcement of a requirement for travellers arriving in England to receive a negative Covid-19 test before departure.

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