Travel corridors suspended and negative Covid test needed to enter UK amid fears of new Brazilian variant

All travel corridors will be suspended from 4am on Monday and anyone who wishes to travel to the UK must have proof of a negative Covid-19 test in the previous 72 hours, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Amid fears of a new strain of coronavirus originating in Brazil, Mr Johnson has ordered the closure of all travel corridors from Monday to protect the UK against new coronavirus strains, ending the quarantine exemption for arrivals from selected nations.

He told the Downing Street press conference: "It's precisely because we have the hope of that vaccine and the risk of new strains coming from overseas that we must take additional steps now to stop those strains from entering the country.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Pic: PAPrime Minister Boris Johnson. Pic: PA
Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Pic: PA

"Yesterday we announced that we're banning flights from South America and Portugal and to protect us against the risk from as-yet-unidentified strains we will also temporarily close all travel corridors from 0400 on Monday.

"Following conversations with the devolved administrations we will act together so this applies across the whole of the UK."

The concerning Brazilian variant of coronavirus does not appear to affect vaccines, Downing Street has said, after a top virologist suggested a separate strain from Brazil is already in the country.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said scientists at the Government's Porton Down research facility are currently investigating the new concerning strain, which has been detected in travellers to Japan.

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A further 1,280 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, while there were a further 55,761 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

Meanwhile, new official figures show 3.23 million people have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in the UK - up by 316,694 from Thursday's figures.

The coronavirus R number in the UK has remained largely unchanged since last week, as scientists advising the Government urge the public to "remain vigilant to keep this virus under control".

R, which refers to the number of people that an infected person will pass the virus on to, is between 1.2 and 1.3 across the UK, according to the figures released on Friday by the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

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An R value above 1 indicates the epidemic is still growing, and this week's estimates mean that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 12 and 13 other individuals.

Analysis by the PA news agency shows that in the seven days to January 10, 113 (36%) of the 315 local areas in England have seen a rise in case rates. Some 200 (63%) have seen a fall and two are unchanged.

A study from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that levels of anxiety are at their highest since last April, when the first wave of coronavirus was at its peak

The Sage scientists said: "The latest figures show that we need to remain vigilant to keep this virus under control, to protect the NHS and save lives.

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"We all need to play our part and if everyone continues to follow the rules - we can expect to drive down the R number across the country."

Last week, R was between 1 and 1.4 for the UK as a whole.

Elsewhere, Cambridge University researchers have said the R is below 1 in the East of England, London, the South East, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber.

But they believe it is still above 1 in the South West, North West, North East and the East Midlands, indicating case numbers are growing in those regions.

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