BRITAIN has issued a ban on all travel from South Africa to halt the spread of a new, more infectious strain of coronavirus.
The Department of Transport last night confirmed that all passengers travelling from South Africa to England from 9am this morning would not be permitted to enter the country.
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Passengers wearing protective masks are seen at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa as the UK imposes a travel ban[/caption]
Matt Hancock gave a press briefing this afternoon from No 10[/caption]
British and Irish Nationals, visa holders and permanent residents arriving from the country will be able to enter but are required to self-isolate for ten days along with their household.
All direct flights are banned, excluding cargo and freight without passengers.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, tweeted: “I’ve taken the decision to temporarily stop flights and arrivals entering England from South Africa from 9am tomorrow following an outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus.”
It comes after Matt Hancock yesterday announced that anyone who travelled to the UK from South Africa in the past two weeks must enter a ten-day quarantine.
The Health Secretary revealed that two cases of the more infectious strain had been found in the UK, just days after the announcement that a highly contagious new variant was tearing through the South East of England.
It comes as:
- Dover chaos continues as drivers wait for their Covid tests
- More of the South and East to go into Tier 4 on Boxing Day
- The places where Covid variant is spreading most rapidly across UK was revealed – as the mutant strain has been located in 57 places
- Parents are furious over claims ‘schools may close for ALL of January’ after experts claim mutant Covid strain spreads faster in kids
- The R rate is thought to be as high as 1.5 in some areas
Mr Hancock warned the variant from South Africa was “highly concerning and yet more transmissible and appears to have mutated further”.
It is believed to be behind an increase in cases in South Africa, which has also seen a spike in hospitalisations in recent weeks.
Anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has travelled from South Africa must also quarantine.
Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to Public Health England said: “We’re still learning about the South African variant… but we are pretty confident that the system we have in place will help monitor the spread.”
And Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said “we expect viruses to mutate so it’s not a surprise”, adding tier measures should prevent the spread.
Passengers wait in line for a flight to Paris at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo airport[/caption]
As he announced new areas facing Tier 4 restrictions from Boxing Day, Mr Hancock said: “We all know that 2020 has been a hard year and it’s ending in this festive period that is going to be very different.
“After all the efforts that we have gone to to control this virus… we’ve discovered a new more contagious virus, a variant that is spreading at a dangerous rate.”
He said cases have risen by 57 per cent in the last week, with almost as many people in hospital with Covid now as in the peak.
Tuesday saw the biggest ever UK daily rise with 36,804 new positive tests and 691 deaths.
The daily figures showed Covid cases nearly doubled since the 18,450 infections recorded the same time last week.
The soaring infection levels saw Prime Minister Boris Johnson announce a new Tier 4 lockdown on Saturday which has plunged 16 million people back into virtual lockdown, with all pubs and non-essential shops shut and people urged to stay indoors.
The new variant is growing fast in London and the South East[/caption]
Yesterday Mr Hancock said areas moving to the toughest Tier 4 – where there is a stay at home order – from Boxing Day are: Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, those parts of Essex not yet in Tier 4, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire – including Portsmouth and Southampton but with the exception of the New Forest.
Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset including the North Somerset council area, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire as well as Cheshire and Warrington will all be escalated to Tier 3.
Cornwall and Herefordshire move from Tier 1 to Tier 2.
He gave a rallying cry to the country, saying: “This Christmas and the start of 2021 is going to be tough, the new variant makes everything much harder because it spreads so much faster.
“But we mustn’t give up now, we know we can control this virus, we know we can get through it together. I know from the bottom of my heart that there are brighter days ahead.”
The new mutant strain is feared to be present in every region of the UK, with health bosses and government ministers urging people living in Tier 4 areas not to travel to other parts of the country.
More than 2,000,000 positive tests and 68,000 deaths have been recorded since the start of the pandemic in January this year.
The increase in cases is believed to be down to a new mutant strain of the virus which has swept London and the South East.
Data from Public Health England (PHE) states that out of the 315 local areas in England, 285 have seen a rise in case rates and 30 have seen a fall.
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