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South America and Portugal ban

Arrivals from a number of countries including Brazil and Argentina halted

Travellers from Portugal and a number of countries in South America will be banned from arriving in the UK from Friday, the government has announced amid concerns about the Brazilian variant of Covid.

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said arrivals from countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Panama would be stopped.

On Wednesday, prime minister Boris Johnson had hinted that measures would be introduced with the new variant in mind. In the House of Commons Labour MP Yvette Cooper said: “You were warned about the Brazil variant three days ago. We don’t know, yet, whether that variant could undermine the vaccination programme. Why aren’t you taking immediate action, on a precautionary basis?”

Johnson answered: “We’re putting in extra measures to ensure that people coming from Brazil are checked; and indeed stopping people coming from Brazil.”

It is unclear if the Brazilian variant is resistant to vaccines. The measures come in at 4am on January 15.

A spokesperson for the prime minister said: “We always said we would introduce the regulations on Friday, and the laws still come into force on Friday but we’ve implemented a grace period over the weekend, so that passengers can have a little bit more time to get access to the tests they need that meet our requirements.”

Last night, Shapps announced that new rules requiring international arrivals to present proof of a negative Covid-19 test have been delayed until Monday January 18.

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Shapps had previously announced that from January 14 inbound passengers arriving by boat, plane or train will have to take a test up to 72 hours before departing the country they are in.

However, on Twitter the transport secretary confirmed the delay: “To give international arrivals time to prepare passengers will be required to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test before departure to England from Monday 18 January at 4am,” he said.

“We’ve published guidance on GOV.UK outlining the details of the type of test passengers should book and when they should take them, so they can get back into England smoothly and safely.”

He added: “Passengers must remember to complete a Passenger Locator Form before arriving back into England – anyone without proof of a negative test faces a £500 fine.”