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An exterior view of Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport (Photo: AirlineGeeks | James Dinsdale)

U.K. Introduces South American and Portuguese Travel Ban

The U.K. government has announced a new travel ban in response to a new variant of COVID-19.

The new travel restrictions bar entry to the U.K. for passengers arriving from 16 countries, including many in South and Central America and Portugal from Friday 15 January at 4 a.m.

The measures follow the discovery of a new coronavirus variant in Brazil that is likely to have spread into nearby countries with strong travel links. The move is similar to one made by the government when a separate new variant was discovered in South Africa.

Passengers who have been in, including for transit through, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Cape Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Panama, Portugal, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela in the last ten days will no longer be granted access to the U.K. 

Direct flights to the affected countries have been banned outright as the government hopes to prevent the variant from reaching the nation.

The U.S. banned arrivals from Brazil in May as ABC News reported its case numbers passed 347,000 – small numbers in contrast with over eight million having been reported as of writing.

The U.K. currently has travel corridors with Chile and Madeira and the Azores in Portugal, however, these will be closed and any British national arriving after 4 a.m. on 15 January must self-isolate for ten days, according to a U.K. Government article.

Passengers arriving from the restricted countries will not be eligible to participate in the Test to Release scheme, where self-isolation can be shortened if a negative COVID-19 test is provided after five days.

In a tweet thread, Grant Shapps – the U.K. Secretary of State for Transport – said: “I’ve taken the urgent decision to BAN ARRIVALS from ARGENTINA, BRAZIL, BOLIVIA, CAPE VERDE, CHILE, COLOMBIA, ECUADOR, FRENCH GUIANA, GUYANA, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, PERU, SURINAME, URUGUAY AND VENEZUELA from TOMORROW, 15 JAN at 4AM following evidence of a new variant in Brazil.”

“Travel from PORTUGAL to the UK will also be suspended given its strong travel links with Brazil – acting as another way to reduce the risk of importing infections. However, there is an exemption for hauliers travelling from Portugal (only), to allow transport of essential goods,” continued Shapps.

From Monday 18 January, all passengers heading to England will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test before boarding transport to help prevent the importing of any new strains of coronavirus to the country. Negative tests do not excuse individuals from self-isolating on arrival if they are arriving from a country without a travel corridor with England.

International travel is currently prohibited in England as it undergoes its third national lockdown, except for a few permitted reasons such as essential work. However, these exemptions will no longer apply to the countries affected by the new travel ban from January 15, except for haulers transiting through Portugal to allow the transport of essential goods, the Government article reports.

As of writing, Brazil is currently the third-worst affected country by the number of coronavirus cases – behind the United States and India. The new variant, which the BBC reports was originally discovered in July, could make matters worse for Brazil as i news suggests it could make the virus more transmissible, which would likely lead to higher hospitalizations.

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  • Connor has been in love with flying since the first time he boarded a plane when he was 5 years old. He loves all things aviation, and he hopes to make that his full time career in the future.

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