BORIS Johnson has sensationally axed all travel corridors to stop more mutant variants of Covid hitting the UK which could be “vaccine busting”.
He scrapped all travel corridors for all countries, meaning anyone coming into the country from 4am on Monday will be ordered to isolate for 10 days – but people can still get a test on day 5 to be released.
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Boris Johnson tonight scrapped travel corridors from Monday morning – meaning anyone coming in has to isolateCredit: AP:Associated Press
Speaking at tonight’s press conference alongside Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty, Mr Johnson said he was forced to “take additional steps to stop those strains from entering” the country.
The PM said: “We are making such progress with the vaccine. What we don’t want is all that hard work undone by the arrival of a new variant that is vaccine-busting.
“It is vital to toughen restrictions now when day by day, hour by hour we are making such strides in protecting the population.”
He announced that “to protect us against the risk of as yet unidentified new strains, we will also temporarily close all travel corridors from 0400 on Monday.”
The move will come in across all four corners of the UK, so all the rules will be the same, and there’s no time limit on how long it will last for.
This will be backed by more spot checks to ensure people are remaining in self-isolation, too – and anyone caught out faces a £1,000 fine.
At least two new strains – from Brazil and South Africa – have been identified which are even more easily spread – sparking panic among medics.
The most concerning variant, also detected in Japan, has not yet been found in the UK. But scientists last night confirmed a second mutation has been in Britain “some time” and been spotted 11 times.
It has been linked to two cases of reinfection in Brazil — suggesting it may be better at evading vaccines or natural immunity.
Imperial College London’s Prof Wendy Barclay said both strains have mutations that “might impact the way some people’s antibodies can see the virus”.
It’s expected that more flights will now be cancelled across the world – causing more chaos for the struggling travel sector.
It is the toughest border lockdown the UK has ever imposed since last year’s March shutdown.
Many other countries have had testing at borders since last summer, but UK ministers have said it wasn’t needed.
Already Brits are banned from going on holiday thanks to the national lockdown – and should only be travelling for work or essential reasons anyway.
Chris Whitty warned the peak of deaths was still at least a week awayCredit: PA:Press Association
But the news will spark a scramble for Brits abroad to get back home before the extra quarantine rules kick in on Monday morning.
The PM said tonight: “If you come to this country you must have proof of negative Covid tests that you have taken in the 72hrs before leaving, and you must have filled in passenger locator form. The airline will ask for proof of both.
“Upon arrival you must quarantine for 10 days not leaving for any reason, or take a test on day 5 and wait for proof of negative result.”
Joss Croft, chief executive of inbound tourism body UKinbound, said: “Consumer safety is paramount and although the removal of all travel corridors is regrettable, given the current trajectory of the virus it’s an understandable decision.”
However, in positive news for the nation, the PM revealed 3 million vaccines have been dished out – and said there were some “tentative, early signs” that pressure may be slightly easing in London’s hospitals, and cases levelling off.
It came as:
The PM also said he was worried about the new Brazil variant – which caused a flight ban to come in overnight.
The PM warned the vaccine may not be as effective against variants from abroad, saying: “Its likely the vaccine we have now is going to protect against the UK variant, and its going to provide protection to the other variants as well, its just to what degree the efficacy might change.”
But Patrick Vallance said it was a “miracle” there was a vaccine at all – and he expected it to have some impact on reducing the transmission of infections.
WHEN WILL LOCKDOWN END?
The PM stressed that once the most vulnerable have been vaccinated by mid-February “we will think about what steps we could take to lift the restrictions”.
He continued: “What we can’t have is any false sense of security so that we, as it were, lift the restrictions altogether and then the disease really runs riot in the younger generations.
“That is not to say that I don’t want to try to get to relaxations as soon as we reasonably can – but there are a lot of things that have to go right.”
The new rules won’t come in until Monday morningCredit: w8media
Arrivals coming in from next week will be ordered to quarantine and provide a negative testCredit: w8media
Flights have already been cancelled between the UK and Portugal, along with all of South America – and only British citizens or those with residence rights will now be allowed in from those areas.
Public Health England and Porton Down labs are looking at the new Brazil strain – which Boris Johnson said was “concerning” earlier this week.
But one of two new variants from Brazil could have already made its way to the UK, according to Professor Wendy Barclay, a leading British scientist.
Downing Street has said evidence currently suggests that the concerning new Brazilian variant of coronavirus may be more transmissible but does not affect vaccines.
Transport Secretary this morning Grant Shapps said this morning he did not believe the mutation is in Britain yet.
“There haven’t been any flights that I can see from the last week from Brazil, for example,” he told the BBC.
And he said the Government’s top scientists think the vaccine will still work effectively on the new variant.
Mr Shapps said: “We had a look at this particular mutation, as opposed to many other thousands very carefully, saw there may be an issue, not so much that the vaccine won’t work, in fact scientists think it will work, but just the fact it is more spreadable.”
There has been some levelling off in case numbers this weekCredit: Universal News & Sport (Europe)
Brazil has seen Covid deaths double as its hospitals run out of oxygen while a new strain of the deadly virus has been detected in the Amazon.
Health officials and scientists have suggested the mutation could be behind the surge over the last three weeks which has seen daily records set for cases and deaths.
Hospitals in the country are being overwhelmed as Brazil has recorded the second highest death tally in the world with 205,000.
It is feared the new strain could be fueling the spread as Brazilian scientists believe the Covid mutation could increase the rate of transmission – like the variants detected in South Africa and the UK.
Meanwhile, the Government has launched a new advertising blitz in an attempt to stop people breaking the Covid rules over the weekend.
It warns people not to “bend the rules” and that from the Government’s new advertising blitz warning that “catching up can kill”, after parks and beaches were packed last weekend.
The Sun revealed yesterday one of them is expected to say that grabbing a coffee “could cost lives” – after ministers warned against people using exercise rules to see their mates.