LONDON (AFP) — Britain will ban all arrivals from South America, Panama, Cape Verde and Portugal starting Friday over fears of importing a new coronavirus variant in Brazil, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Thursday.
"I've taken the urgent decision... following evidence of a new variant in Brazil," Shapps said on Twitter, adding there will be an exemption for haulers travelling from Portugal 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 10 days along with their households," he added.
Numerous virus variants have been identified since the pandemic began last year, including a more contagious one that has led to a surge of infections in Britain in recent months.
However another mutation, known as E484K, detected initially in South Africa and on subsequent variants in Brazil and Japan, has raised greater alarm among researchers over its possible impact on immunity.
The UK government has faced criticism over its borders' policy during the health crisis, initially allowing international arrivals and departures to continue last year even as infections surged.
It then introduced requirements to self-isolate if people have been somewhere that is not on a regularly updated "travel corridors" list.
But from next Monday, travelers will need to present proof of a negative coronavirus test result in order to be allowed into England, or face a £500 ($685, 564 euros) fine on arrival.
Britain has been one of the worst hit countries in Europe by the pandemic, recording nearly 85,000 deaths and more than 3.2 million cases to date.
© Agence France-Presse
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