Any passengers from Portugal who are not British or Irish nationals will be banned from entry into UK as of 4am tomorrow (Friday) morning.
British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted his decision this afternoon, in a bid to halt the entry into Britain of a new variant of the virus that has been detected in Brazil.
Wrote Mr Shapps: “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.
“This measure does not apply to British and Irish Nationals and third country nationals with residence rights – but passengers returning from these destinations must self-isolate for TEN DAYS along with their households”.
There are concerns that this Brazilian variant, along with another that has been flagged in South Africa, could potentially render vaccines ‘less efficient’.
This is by no means proven yet, but British PM Boris Johnson admitted yesterday in the House of Commons “There are lots of questions we still have about that variant”.
As to the possibility that the change in its make-up would ‘confuse the vaccine’, he said: “We don’t know for instance any more than we know whether the South African variant is vaccine resistant.”
The UK has been particularly badly hit by the effects of the pandemic. Its population is in lockdown with ‘no end in sight’ – contrary to Portugal’s confinement which politicians have more or less suggested won’t go further than one month.
Nothing can be set in stone, however, as it all depends on how the virus ‘behaves’ over the next few weeks.
Today’s figures have continued with record numbers of people showing new infections and another 148 people registered as having died in the last 24-hour period.
Hospital admissions have increased by another 128 people to 4,368, with ICUs coping with the highest number of patients yet, 611.
Recoveries this time have held steady with the number of new infections. Active infections are now at 121,815.
For the latest bulletin in full click here.
As for how this latest news has affected flight schedules to UK – and indeed flights bringing Portuguese back to Portugal – TAP, easyJet, British Airways, Jet 2 and Tui Airways have all cancelled flights due to the Portuguese government’s decision to limit entry into Portugal due to the British variant (click here).
The issue now will be how to get any British and/ or Irish nationals that are here home when they want to return as most carriers are no longer flying.
The British government’s decision applies to the autonomous regions of Azores and Madeira as well.