UK-bound arrivals from South America and Portugal will be banned from tomorrow amid mounting fears about a new Brazilian variant of coronavirus.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the change will come into force from 4am on Friday.
He announced he had made the “urgent decision” following a meeting with the government’s Covid Operations committee at lunchtime.
The move will mean a ban on all in-bound travel from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Portugal has also been added to the list due its strong travel links with Brazil via indirect flights.
The move means travellers will likely still be able to reach Britain on indirect flight routes via other Mediterranean countries such as Spain.
Additionally, Shapps removed Qatar, Chile, Madeira and the Azores from the UK’s travel corridor list.
British and Irish citizens and foreign nationals with residence rights will still be allowed to travel, though they will subject to the usual 10-day quarantine period.
It comes after the Prime Minister yesterday said he was “very concerned” about the new Brazilian strain, and that the government was “taking steps” to prevent it spreading across the UK.
Boris Johnson told MPs at the Commons liaison committee that there were “lots of questions” surrounding the new variant, including whether it is resistant to vaccines.
The strain was first announced last Monday after Japanese health officials identified four air passengers arriving in Tokyo from Brazil.
Johnson also faced scrutiny over the government’s delayed introduction of pre-departure testing requirements for all international arrivals in England.
People arriving in England from abroad will now have to provide a negative Covid test from Monday, rather than Friday as originally planned.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the delay was to “give international arrivals time to prepare” after the full guidance was only published yesterday.