From tomorrow, the UK is banning travel from all South American countries, hoping to stop a new variant of the CCP virus that has emerged in Brazil.
Announcing the new restrictions, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that they do not apply to British or Irish Nationals or people with UK residency rights.
"Travel from Portugal to the UK will also be suspended given its strong travel links with Brazil—acting as another way to reduce the risk of importing infections," said Shapps. "However, there is an exemption for hauliers travelling from Portugal (only), to allow transport of essential goods."
In addition to all countries in South America, the list also includes neighbouring Panama.
Unlike the variant currently thought to be pushing a surge of the pandemic in the UK, there is not yet any evidence of faster transmission in the Brazil variant.
However, scientists are concerned that it appears to be similar to the variant which emerged in South Africa, which scientists are concerned about.
"The SARS-CoV-2 RBD is one of the main targets for our immune defences and also the region targeted by vaccines and changes within this region are therefore worrisome. Vaccines are still likely to be effective as a control measure if coverage rates are high and transmission is limited as far as possible.”
The announcement of the travel ban from South America comes with the government accused of dragging its feet over travel restrictions.
Within the three-day period before boarding trains, planes, or boats bound for England, passengers must take a test for the CCP virus.
They must present proof of a negative test to their carrier.
The Department for Transport has now also issued full public guidance, including which types of tests are acceptable.
Such tests include PCR and LAMP tests, which detect key chemical markers, and antigen tests from lateral flow devices.
Specifically, the tests are required to have “≥97% specificity, [and] ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml.”
The government says the new requirements, which also apply to UK passport holders, will help stem the influx of new strains of the CCP virus.
On top of the new measures, arrivals from countries outside the “air corridor” list will still have to quarantine for 10 days.
Transport operators will also be fined if they are found to have transported passengers who have not followed the rules.
England’s new rules will not affect travellers from other parts of the UK (which can set their own travel restrictions) or from Ireland, the Isle of Man, Jersey, or Guernsey.
Children under the age of 11 are exempt.
The government said that the “very restricted number” of other exemptions includes flight crews and employees manning boats and trains.