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Saturday 27 February 2021
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Covid-19: UK bans passengers from South America amid concerns over new Brazilian variant

The ban also covers Panama, Portugal and Cape Verde.

Check-in counters at Guarulhos International Airport in Sao Paulo
Check-in counters at Guarulhos International Airport in Sao Paulo
Image: DPA/PA Images

TRAVELLERS FROM SOUTH America have been banned from entering the UK from today amid growing concerns about a new strain of Covid-19 which emerged in Brazil.

The ban, which also covers Panama in Central America and Portugal – due to its strong travel links with Brazil – and the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde, came into force at 4am.

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 there have already been large outbreaks of the disease.

UK transport secretary Grant Shapps described the ban as a “precautionary” move to ensure the vaccination programme rolling out across the UK was not disrupted by new variants of the virus.

“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,” he told BBC News.

“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.”

British and Irish nationals and others with residence rights are exempted from the measure, a move backed by the Scottish government, though such individuals must self-isolate for ten days along with their households on their return.

There is an exemption also for hauliers travelling from Portugal to allow the transport of essential goods.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the ban was a “necessary step” but accused ministers of incompetence and “lurching from one crisis and rushed announcement to another”.

The move came as the latest figures showed the number of people across the UK to have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine has passed 2.9 million.

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Latest official figures showed a further 1,248 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 in the UK as of Thursday.

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