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United Kingdom bans all South American flights

Brazil's Rio de Janeiro - all flights from South America to the UK have been banned following the discovery of a new Covid variant in Brazil (photo courtesy Unsplash).

The United Kingdom has banned arrivals from the whole of South America, Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores), Panama and Cape Verde due to concerns about a new variant of Covid-19 reported in Brazil. The restrictions come into force at 4am GMT on Friday, January 15.

Scientists are scrambling to ascertain whether this latest mutation of the coronavirus is more transmissible than other variants. There is concern that it may infect people who have already recovered from Covid.

The Brazilian city of Manaus has declared a state of emergency following a huge surge in infections, despite experts believing the city was close to herd immunity after it was understood that 76% of the population had contracted coronavirus by October 2020. The surge, which began last month, has pushed hospitals to 100% capacity.

The new, Brazilian variant was also detected this week in Japan. Meanwhile, the super-spreading variant uncovered by British scientists in the run-up to Christmas has now travelled to 35 countries. Scientists are warning that there may be an increase in such mutations throughout the world in the months to come.

Yet another worrying variant has been discovered in South Africa which has also resulted in a raft of flight cancellations. Emirates announced earlier today that it would be temporarily suspending all flights with South Africa.

Portugal has also been included in the UK travel ban due to its strong travel links with Brazil. However, hauliers carrying essential goods are exempted.

British and Irish nationals and those with residents rights in the UK are also exempted, but must self-isolate, along with their households, for a minimum of ten days on arrival.

Brazil had already banned flights from the UK in December.

From Monday, all international arrivals into the UK, whether they come in by boat, plane or train, will need to have a negative Covid-19 medical certificate. Airlines have been told to refuse boarding to passengers who do not have the correct documentation.

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