UK bans travel from South America over Brazil variant fears
The United Kingdom is banning travel from entire South America and Portugal amid concerns over a new variant of the coronavirus in Brazil, authorities in London announced. The ban does not apply to British and Irish nationals and third-country nationals with residence rights in the UK. However, anyone returning from the banned destinations must quarantine themselves for ten days.
Arrivals from more than a dozen countries have been halted
British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that as of 4:00 am Friday, arrivals from more than a dozen countries, including Argentina, Chile, and Peru, will be halted. The Cape Verde islands off the west coast of Africa and Panama in Central America were also slapped with travel bans. The restrictions also apply to the Portuguese archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores.
Travel from Portugal halted due to close links with Brazil
Amid dismay in Portugal, Shapps explained that travel from Portugal would also be halted due to its close links with Brazil, though there are exemptions for truck drivers from Portugal transporting essential goods. He said on Twitter that the move is another way to reduce the risk of importing infections.
'Another way to reduce the risk of importing infections'
Portuguese Foreign Minister not happy with the travel restriction
Meanwhile, Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva called the UK decision "completely absurd" and without logic and said he would seek clarification from his British counterpart. In an interview, he said there was no evidence the variant found in Brazil had reached Portugal and stressed that all passengers traveling from Brazil to Portugal must be tested within 72 hours of their departure.
UK is already reeling under another variant
The announcement comes a few weeks after several countries banned travel from the UK following the discovery of another variant there, which has been blamed for an increase in coronavirus infections and related deaths. Brazil had temporarily suspended flights from or via the UK as of December 25 because of the variant, which is believed to be around 50 to 70 percent more contagious.