Travel news latest: Uproar as Portugal is pulled into South America travel ban

A travel ban on 16 countries, covering the whole of South America and Portugal, came into force at 4am this morning, amid concerns over the new Brazilian variant of Covid-19.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, Tweeted to say he was taking “urgent” action to stop the Brazilian variant reaching Britain.

Anyone who has visited or transited through one of the 16 countries will no longer be granted access to the UK. However, the ban does not cover British, Irish and foreign residents, who will be subject to a quarantine of ten days on arrival in the UK.

Shapps said: “Travel from Portugal to the U.K. will also be suspended given its strong travel links with Brazil.” The ban covers Madeira and the Azores, which have also now lost their travel corridors.

However, travellers cannot get into Portugal from Brazil without a negative test at the departure airport, prompting uproar on Twitter as to why Spain – which has strong links to South and Central America – is not covered by the travel ban too.

Paul Charles, travel expert and CEO of the PC Agency, said: “If now is the window for stemming the potential new strain’s flow into the UK, then now is the time to ensure every possible entry point is plugged – and that includes Spain. At the moment, it’s a glaring omission, especially as there is so much traffic between Portugal, where entry from is banned, and Spain.”

Travel bans of this sort have previously been introduced for those travelling to the UK from Denmark and South Africa, as well as a number of southern African countries.

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South America travel ban ‘a little late’ 

Epidemiologist Dr Mike Tildesley suggested the South America travel ban which came into force at 4am on Friday is slightly late but will still “minimise the risk” of the new coronavirus variant found in Brazil from entering the UK.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Dr Tildesley said: “We always have this issue with travel bans of course, that we’re always a little bit behind the curve.

“With Covid we need to remember that when you develop symptoms you could have been infected up to a couple of weeks ago.

“So it’s really important that these travel bans come in quickly so that we can prevent any risk. My understanding is that there haven’t really been any flights coming from Brazil for about the past week, so hopefully the immediate travel ban should really minimise the risk.”

He added that scientists will know “in the next few days” whether the ban has had “a significant effect”.


Germany passes 2 million cases 

Germany has reported 22,368 new cases of coronavirus, taking the country over the two million mark. 

Angela Merkel is pondering a tougher lockdown as Germany exceeds two million cases

Angela Merkel is pondering a tougher lockdown as Germany exceeds two million cases

There have been 44,994 Covid-related deaths in the country.


The first country I’ll visit after lockdown?

There’s no contest, for Oliver Smith.

“My dream destination is a place where Britons are always welcomed with open arms, where the sun always shines, and which doesn’t involve a long flight. What I want is unspoilt island life, unpretentious food and accommodation, quiet beaches, walks through green, mountainous interiors, and a complete removal from the stresses of modern life.”

Oliver Smith is dreaming of one place in particular


‘Don’t take travel advice from me’, says Transport Secretary

The Transport Secretary has insisted the British public should not take travel advice from him as growing pressure mounts on the Government to make sure the Brazilian strain does not derail the UK’s vaccine plan. 

Pressed on whether it was wise for pensioners who have had the vaccine to book summer holidays, Grant Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I am the last person you should take travel advice on this from.

“I remember about this time last year, or a little bit later, being asked whether I would book a summer holiday. We then had the travel corridors and I did book, I went to Spain with my family.

Grant Shapps

“And, within an hour of getting there, I, myself, put Spain… took them out of the travel corridor, meaning that I needed to come home and start my quarantine, leaving my family there.

“So, don’t take any travel advice from me.”

Questions have been raised about whether or not the Government acted quickly enough to ban travel from South America and Portugal.

Mr Shapps said they had been brought in because “we do not want to be tripping up at this last moment”.


How are cases looking in Brazil?


 How are case numbers looking?

  • 8,326,115 cases
  • 207,160 deaths
  • January 14 new cases: 68,656
  • January 14 new deaths: 1,151

Brazilian Covid variant may infect people who have recovered from virus 

The Brazilian coronavirus variant may infect people who have already recovered from Covid, scientists said as they called for urgent investigations into whether the new mutation can escape previous immunity.

Research published last year suggested that 76 per cent of people in Manaus had contracted coronavirus by October, which should have severely limited onward spread of the virus. However, the city saw an unexpected surge of new cases last month and has now declared a state of emergency, with hospitals reaching 100 per cent capacity. 

Read the full report here.


If we’re banning arrivals from Portugal, then why not Spain?

Travel expert Paul Charles, CEO of the PC Agency, told Telegraph Travel:

“There needs to be consistency if infection rates are to be driven down and new strains prevented from taking hold. Spain should be added to the travel ban list at this time as Madrid is a major transit point for visitors from Argentina and other South American countries banned from today. If now is the window for stemming the potential new strain’s flow into the UK, then now is the time to ensure every possible entry point is plugged – and that includes Spain. At the moment, it’s a glaring omission, especially as there is so much traffic between Portugal, where entry from is banned, and Spain.”


It’s time to cancel your holiday to St Eustatius

Grant Shapps Tweeted last night to update the UK’s travel corridors list. Chilethe Azores and Madeira lost their corridors due to the South America/Portugal travel ban. QatarAruba and Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba lost their corridors too.

Not that this particularly affects British residents right now, as all non-essential travel is banned while the country is in lockdown.


Which countries have been banned?

Anyone who has visited the following countries over the past ten days will no longer be granted access to the UK (excluding British, Irish and third country nationals with residence rights in the UK).

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Cape Verde
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • French Guiana
  • Guyana
  • Paraguay
  • Panama
  • Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)
  • Peru
  • Suriname
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela

This travel ban cannot be “kicked down the road endlessly” 

Danny Callaghan, chief executive of the Latin American Travel Association, said: “It is vital that this travel ban is reviewed on an ongoing basis subject to the epidemiological situation and the associated risks and not just forgotten about or kicked down the road endlessly.

“There is no doubt that the region’s tourism sector has been hit hard by the economic fallout which has meant that travel to the region, for the most part, has ground to a halt. This development will further have a knock on effect in terms of consumer confidence.”


What happened yesterday? 

A recap of yesterday’s top stories.

  • New test for arrival rules pushed back till Monday 
  • British skiers turned away from French border
  • ‘Vaccine-confidence’ fuels holiday boom among the over-50s
  • Airport temperature scanners ‘not reliable’ at detecting Covid, say scientists
  • Norwegian axes long-haul flights
  • Jet2 adds 700 extra flights for summer 2021

Now, on with today’s news.

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