LONDON — Authorities announced on Thursday that the UK is banning travel from the whole of South America and Portugal amid a new variant of the coronavirus in Brazil.
British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps mentioned that as of 4 a.m. Friday, arrivals from more than a dozen nations, together with Argentina, Chile, and Peru, shall be halted “following proof of a new variant in Brazil.” Outside South America, the Cape Verde islands off the west coast of Africa and Panama in Central America had been also slapped with travel bans.
And in a move that prompted consternation in Portugal, Shapps mentioned travel from that nation would even be halted due to its close links with Brazil, although there are exemptions for truck drivers from Portugal transporting essential items. He mentioned on Twitter that the move is “another strategy to curb the risk of importing infections.”
The restrictions also apply to the Portuguese archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores.
The ban doesn’t apply to British and Irish nationals and third nation nationals with residence rights within the U.K. However, anybody coming back from the banned locations should quarantine themselves for 10 days with their households.
The announcement comes only a few weeks after many countries banned travel from the U.K. following the invention of another variant of the virus around London and southeastern England, which has been blamed for a sharp in new coronavirus infections and deaths associated with COVID-19.
Brazil, for example, temporarily suspended flights from or via the U.K. as of Dec. 25 over concerns over that variant, which is believed to be around 50% more contagious.
Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva called the U.K. decision “absurd” and “without logic” and mentioned he would search for clarification from his British counterpart
In an interview with news agency Lusa revealed online by the newspaper Diario de Noticias, he mentioned there was no proof the variant present in Brazil had reached Portugal and stressed that all passengers traveling from Brazil to Portugal should be tested for the coronavirus within 72 hours of their departure.
“Suspending flights from Portugal with the argument of the connections between Portugal and Brazil is, with all due respect, fully absurd,” the foreign minister was quoted as saying.