Ministers have met to discuss “urgent measures” to restrict any spread of the Brazilian coronavirus variant to the UK, Downing Street has said.
Boris Johnson was caught out yesterday when he was unable to tell a committee of senior parliamentarians what steps he planned to take to protect the UK from the new strain, which is believed to be more infective than the original Covid-19 virus.
Reports suggest that ministers are considering a ban on travel from not only Brazil but also neighbouring countries in South America where the mutated variant may already have spread.
Mr Johnson’s official spokesman told reporters that the issue was discussed at the government’s Coronavirus Operations (CO) today.
“Ministers have met this morning to consider urgent measures to reduce the potential spread to the UK of the Brazilian variant,” he said.
An announcement is expected to follow the meeting.
The PM’s spokesman defended a last-minute delay in the implementation of a new requirement for pre-departure coronavirus tests when travelling to England.
The rule was due to come into force on Friday, but transport secretary Grant Shapps announced in a late-night tweet that it was being put back three days to Monday next week.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We always said we’d introduce the regulations on Friday and the law is still coming into force on Friday.
UPDATE: 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 📅
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) January 13, 2021
“But we’ve implemented a grace period over the weekend until 4am on Monday so passengers can have a little bit more time to ensure they can get access to tests that meet our requirements.”
Asked if the delay was giving the Brazilian strain a chance to enter the UK, he said: “It is important to remember this is alongside other measures we have in place.
“We will continue to look out for new variants and new strains.”