The UK is to introduce a travel ban on Brazil to prevent a new highly-infectious strain of Covid-19 being imported from the South American country.
Government sources indicated on Wednesday night that immediate travel restrictions would be imposed similar to the pre-Christmas curbs placed on South Africa where another highly transmissible strain has emerged.
As with South Africa, the Government is also expected to require all those who have travelled from Brazil in the past fortnight to quarantine, as well as anyone they have come into close contact with.
Officials are also monitoring neighbouring countries to Brazil with the prospect that the ban could be extended to them. The Department for Transport (DfT) extended the travel ban on South Africa to neighbouring countries last week.
Boris Johnson told MPs on Wednesday that extra measures were being put in place to prevent the Brazilian coronavirus variant being imported to the UK.
â€œWe're putting in extra measures to ensure that people coming from Brazil are checked and indeed stopping people coming from Brazil," he said.
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Pressed on whether this means a new travel ban being imposed on Brazil, he said: "We are taking steps to ensure that we do not see the import of this new variant from Brazil."
Scientists working in Britain have not yet announced any coronavirus cases caused by the variant on UK soil, although it is likely widespread in Brazil already.
Brazil has already banned flights from the UK. In 2019 there were around 290,000 visits to the UK from Brazil, but there are currently no direct flights running from Brazil to the UK, according to Skyscanner.
It is normal for viruses to mutate and early signs do not suggest that any of the new variants of coronavirus are more deadly than others, but in some places it is evolving to be able to spread faster.
If the virus is faster spreading it will inevitably lead to more cases which will in turn lead to a higher death count, even if the strain itself isn't more dangerous.
The variant that emerged in Kent, now estimated to be around 56 per cent more transmissible than its predecessor, has quickly become the dominant form of the virus in England and has led to the country's longest and toughest lockdown since March 2020.
There is no evidence to suggest vaccines will be any less effective against this variant. Pfizer, maker of the first jab to be approved, tested theirs on the similar UK and South Africa variants and said it still worked just as well.
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