The United Kingdom will suspend flights with Portugal from 4 am on Friday, due to a new strain of coronavirus identified in Brazil, but which has not yet reached Portuguese territory, according to the National Institute of Health Doctor Ricardo Jorge (INSA).
British Transport Minister Grant Shapps said on Twitter that he made this “urgent decision” to cut flights with Portugal “due to his strong ties with Brazil” and with the aim of “reducing the risk of importing infections”.
The blockade of flights from the United Kingdom to Portugal also extends to the Azores and Madeira, with which the British Government maintained air corridors, and which will be closed as of this Friday.
Until now, passengers from Madeira and the Azores were exempt from fulfilling the 10-day quarantine required of most travelers arriving in the United Kingdom, as they are considered safe destinations.
However, the British Government will exempt from this blockage truck drivers traveling from Portugal to allow the circulation of essential goods and also British and Irish citizens and third-country nationals with a right of residence, who may enter the country, but comply quarantine for 10 days.
Scotland and Wales also want to suspend flights with Portugal
Wales and Scotland supported Shapps’ decision and are also preparing to block flights with Portugal soon, according to “The Guardian”.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had already advanced on Wednesday to be concerned about a new strain of the virus originating in Brazil and warned that he was preparing “tough measures to protect this country from new infections from abroad”.
Along with Portugal, the United Kingdom decided to ban air connections with all South American countries and several others, in an extensive list that includes Brazil, but also Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana , Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay or Venezuela. Cape Verde is also included in this list.
The United Kingdom had previously banned direct flights from South Africa due to the new strain of the virus identified in that country and also considered highly infectious – restrictions that were extended last week to several African countries, such as Angola and Mozambique, because they have connections with Africa southern.
New Brazilian strain has twelve mutations and may be resistant to vaccines
Brazil, too, had already banned direct flights with the United Kingdom in December, when a strain of the virus was identified in the British country, then reported to be highly contagious.
The new Brazilian strain of the virus was confirmed last Tuesday by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), the largest medical research center in Latin America, which also revealed to be from the Brazilian state of Amazonas.
The Ministry of Health of Brazil also confirmed this week that the new strain was identified in Japan, in four travelers from Brazil. And he added that the Brazilian variant of the virus has twelve mutations, including the same one that was found in variants already identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
Boris Johnson has also stressed having “many doubts” about the new strain of coronavirus identified in Brazil, including the fact that it may be resistant to vaccines, just as the new South African variant is very unknown.
The Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday that the Brazilian strain may infect people who have recovered from the virus, after scientists discovered that the new Brazilian strain has undergone mutations that make it more infectious and has changes that help it escape defenses from the immune system.
A study published last year suggested that 76% of people in Manaus contracted the coronavirus in October, which should have produced group immunity, but the city saw an unexpected increase in new cases last month and has now declared a state of emergency, with hospitals to reach 100% capacity.
The “Telegraph” cites a new international study that includes scientists from Imperial College and the University of Edinburgh, which found that 41% of current cases in Manaus are caused by the new strain.
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