Covid-19: Brazil travel ban to be discussed over new variant

Travel from Brazil to the UK could be banned in response to the discovery of a new coronavirus variant.

Ministers are meeting to discuss possible measures and a block on flights could also be extended to other South American countries in a bid to stop its spread.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he is “concerned” about the new variant and “extra measures” were being taken.

Arrivals from Brazil are currently required to self-isolate for 10 days.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove will chair the meeting around lunchtime to discuss whether measures should be put in place.

New variants of Covid-19 have also been identified in the UK and South Africa.

During a two-hour appearance in front of the Commons Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday Mr Johnson stopped short of promising a ban on travel from Brazil.

“We already have tough measures … to protect this country from new infections coming in from abroad,” he said.

“We are taking steps to do that in respect of the Brazilian variant.”

Prof Susan Hopkins, who is Strategic Response Director for Covid-19 with Public Health England, told BBC Breakfast experts were looking at the Brazilian variant and needed to grow the virus in the UK in order to perform laboratory experiments.

“So we need to understand the biology of these [new strains], as well as understanding mutations,” she said.

“We will be watching them all to make sure that they can’t escape your immune response, which is the key thing that we’re looking at the moment.”

A travel ban was put in place on arrivals from South Africa on 24 December, which was later extended to several other nearby countries, following the discovery of a new variant.