COVID-19 presence in Brazil dates back to December 2019

Provided by The Independent

Travel from Portugal will also be suspended, with an exemption for hauliers travelling from the country to allow the transport of essential goods, transport secretary Grant Shapps said.

The announcement comes hours after United Kingdom ministers met to discuss plans to restrict any spread of an emerging variant of coronavirus identified in Brazil, which has caused concern among British scientists for its high infectiousness.

The government has taken the urgent decision to ban travel to the United Kingdom from several South American destinations, Portugal, Panama and Cape Verde in order to prevent the spread of a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) into the UK.

"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 (0400 GMT) following evidence of a new variant in Brazil", Shapps said on Twitter. It is typical for viruses to mutate, and variants are not necessarily more harmful.

Prime minister Boris Johnson expressed "concern" about the new strain when speaking at the liaison committee on Tuesday.

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

Earlier on Thursday Johnson said there were "lots of questions" about the vaccine, including whether it would be resistant to vaccines, Sky News reported. The strain is thought to be more infectious than the original strain.

United Kingdom hospitals, particularly in southern England and London, are now struggling with the COVID-19 outbreak.

The results showed IgG antibodies in 210 blood samples, among which 16 samples were collected before the country's first officially-confirmed COVID-19 case on February 26, 2020, suggesting earlier presence of the novel coronavirus in the country.

As of Thursday, Brazil has recorded 8.2 million COVID-19 cases and more than 205,000 deaths, making it the third-worst hit country in terms of infections, with the second-highest death toll.

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