Spreading Brazilian COVID variant 'not thought to be in UK'

Spreading Brazilian COVID variant 'not thought to be in UK'”

The "variant of concern" from Brazil has been detected in travellers to Japan.

The government banned flights from South America, Portugal and Cape Verde on Thursday in response to the emergence of the new variant, having previously banned travel from South Africa because of a new Covid strain.

The toughening up its entry requirements beyond its surprise decision to ban travel from South America and Portugal in the face of a new virus variant in Brazil, arguing that the measures are needed to ensure Britain's fast-moving vaccination program isn't derailed.

"We want to make sure that we do everything possible so that vaccine rollout can continue and make sure that it is not disturbed by other variants of this virus".

The new restrictions come just a few weeks after many countries banned travel from the United Kingdom following the discovery in England of another, more contagious variant of the virus that has been blamed for a sharp rise in infections and deaths.

British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps Friday said arrivals from more than a dozen countries, including Argentina, Chile and Peru, will be halted "following evidence of a new variant in Brazil".

Asked if the Brazilian strain was now in the country, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Not as far as we are aware, I think, at this stage".

She later clarified: "The new Brazilian variant of concern, that was picked up in travellers going to Japan, has not been detected in the UK".

"We don't have cases at the moment, but this is a precautionary approach", Shapps told the BBC.

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The UK is ramping up its mass vaccination program as the government seeks to protect the country's oldest and most vulnerable residents before easing a third national lockdown.

"So it's really important that these travel bans come in quickly so that we can prevent any risk".

Dr Tildesley said although scientists "don't believe there is anything to worry about" in terms of vaccine efficacy, the higher transmissibility could mean "people potentially might end up developing severe symptoms more rapidly which could cause more issues with our health service".

Portugal has also been banned because of its travel links with Brazil.

There were tentative signs the national lockdown was bringing infection rates under control in some parts of England. They include London and the southeast of England, where the new variant of the virus was first identified.

However, they believe it is still above 1 in the South West, North West, North East and East Midlands, indicating case numbers could still grow in those regions. According to government figures on Friday, a little more than 3.2 million people, or around five per cent of the British population, have received a first dose of a two-shot vaccine.

At the same time, however, the PHE surveillance report noted that there were more people being admitted to hospitals and intensive care units.

It comes as a further 1,280 people with coronavirus died in the United Kingdom within 28 days of a positive test, taking the total to 87,291.

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