Travellers from across South America have been banned from entering the UK amid growing concerns about a mutant coronavirus strain which has emerged in Brazil.
The ban which, also covers the Central American state of Panama and Portugal – due to its strong travel links with Brazil – and the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde, came into force at 4am on Friday.
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.
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.”