Travel to the UK from South America, Portugal and Cape Verde has been banned - here's why

A ban on travellers to the UK from South America, Portugal and Cape Verde came into place at 4am on Friday morning (15 Jan), after a new Covid variant was found in Brazil.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said that the decision to ban travel from these destinations “follows the discovery of a new coronavirus variant first identified in Brazil, that may have spread to countries with strong travel links to Brazil.”

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Which countries are included in the travel ban?

The new travel ban applies to people who have travelled from - or through - the South American countries of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela in the last 10 days.

Panama, Cape Verde and Portugal - including the Portuguese islands of Madeira and the Azores - are also included in the ban.

However, British and Irish citizens, and foreign nationals with residence rights will still be able to travel to the UK, but they must isolate for a period of 10 days on arrival.

People who live with someone who has travelled from one of the banned countries also have to self-isolate for 10 days.

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Hauliers travelling from Portugal to the UK are also exempt from the ban in order to allow the transportation of essential goods.

Epidemiologist Dr Tildesley said the new “more transmissible” coronavirus variant found in Brazil was “first detected in travellers going to Tokyo”, before it was then traced back to South America.

Dr Tildesley told BBC Breakfast that although scientists “don’t believe there is anything to worry about” in regards to the efficacy of the vaccine, the higher transmissibility rate could result in “people potentially might end up developing severe symptoms more rapidly which could cause more issues with our health service”.

‘This is a precautionary approach’

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that the new travel ban has been put into place to make sure that the UK’s current coronavirus vaccination programme rollout can continue.

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Mr Shapps told BBC News: “We don’t want to trip up at this late stage. We don’t have cases at the moment but this is a precautionary approach.

“We want to make sure that we do everything possible so that vaccine rollout can continue and make sure that it is not disturbed by other variants of this virus.”