The U.K. will close its borders to travelers from South America and Portugal on Friday as concern grows over a new Covid-19 variant that researchers believe emerged in the Brazilian Amazon, a region that has struggled to cope with the disease.
The variant, which shares similarities with the highly-infectious types identified in Britain and South Africa, was reported in Japan earlier this month among a group of travelers who had recently returned from the Amazon and was also responsible for a case of re-infection in the vast Brazilian state of Amazonas, researchers said.
The U.K. Department for Transport said Thursday it would refuse entry from early Friday to anyone who has traveled from or through South America and Portugal in the past 10 days. The ban also includes Panama and the Portuguese-speaking African nation Cape Verde.
“The decision to ban travel from these destinations follows the discovery of a new coronavirus variant first identified in Brazil, that may have spread to countries with strong travel links to Brazil,” the department said Thursday.
Infectious disease specialists in the Amazon have long feared that the hard-hit region could become a breeding ground for mutations of the virus as the local health system verges on collapse.