UK bans arrivals from South America and Portugal over new COVID variant

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By Euronews  with AP
Arrivals to the UK from South America and Portugal have been banned
Arrivals to the UK from South America and Portugal have been banned   -   Copyright  Steve Parsons/PA via AP

The United Kingdom has banned arrivals from all South American countries and Portugal because of a new variant of coronavirus discovered in Brazil.

The measures, which came into effect on Friday morning, do not apply to British or Irish nationals, or those who have residency in the UK, transport minister Grant Shapps said.

Nationals and residents who do return will have to isolate for ten days.

Portuguese transport drivers bringing essential goods to the UK are exempt from the measures.

Shapps justified the inclusion of Portugal in the ban due to “its important links with Brazil”.

The Portuguese foreign minister, Augusto Santos Silva, called the UK’s decision “absurd” and “without logic” in an interview with Diario de Noticias newspaper.

He said there was no evidence that the variant found in Brazil was circulating in Portugal.

The new variant was discovered in travellers who arrived in Japan from the South American country, with Japanese authorities announcing its discovery on January 10.

The variant is different from the one that was discovered in England and reported in Europe, which led to various countries taking measures to stop travel from the UK.

Brazil temporarily suspended flights from or via the UK from Christmas day over concerns over this variant, which is believed to be at least 50% more contagious than the original.

Along with another variant found in South Africa, the Brazil variant is the latest incidence of the virus evolving.