UK Ban on Travel From South America Comes Into Force

UK Ban on Travel From South America Comes Into Force
Passengers arrive at Heathrow Airport, west London, on July 10, 2020. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images)
Simon Veazey

The UK ban on travel from South America has come into force, with the transport secretary describing it as a precautionary decision to tackle a potential new variant of the CCP virus that emerged in Brazil.

The new travel ban, which also includes Portugal, was announced on Thursday afternoon by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and came into force at 4 a.m. this morning.

The ban does not apply to British or Irish Nationals or people with UK residency rights.

Shapps said the decision was taken "following evidence of a new variant in Brazil."

That variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, has raised concerns among some scientists due to similarities to a variant in South Africa.

Explaining the decision on Friday, Shapps said it was a precautionary approach, and also noted that there have been no flights from Brazil in the last week and that people were already required to quarantine.

“[The Brazil variant], as with the variant that we saw in Kent or the one in South Africa, shows it's significantly enough of interest to us just to take this precautionary approach of stopping all those flights from Brazil and South America,” Shapps told Sky News.

“Our scientists aren’t saying that the vaccine won’t work against it, but ... we do not want to be tripping up at this last moment, which is why I took the decision as an extra precaution to ban those flights entirely.”

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 Brazilian variant.

However, scientists are worried that it appears to be similar to the variant that emerged in South Africa, which scientists are also concerned about.

“The Brazilian variant has three key mutations in the Spike receptor-binding domain (RBD) that largely mirror some of the mutations we are worried about it in the South African variant, hence the concern,” Ravi Gupta, professor of microbiology at the University of Cambridge, said in a statement.

“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 UK has been introducing other travel restrictions.

From Monday, passengers bound for the UK will have to provide proof of a negative test before they board their planes, trains, and boats.
Simon Veazey is a UK-based journalist who has reported for The Epoch Times since 2006 on various beats, from in-depth coverage of British and European politics to web-based writing on breaking news.