Ministers have met to discuss “urgent measures” to restrict any spread of the Brazilian coronavirus variant, Downing Street has said.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Ministers have met this morning to consider urgent measures to reduce the potential spread to the UK of the Brazilian variant.”
The ban was expected discussed at a meeting of the government’s key “Covid-O” committee which oversees restrictions.
Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced that new rules requiring travellers arriving in England to have a negative coronavirus test have been delayed “to give international arrivals time to prepare”.
The requirement for passengers arriving in England by boat, train or plane – including UK nationals – to test negative for Covid up to 72 hours before leaving the country of departure was due to come into force at 4am on Friday.
But it has been pushed back until the same time on Monday, amid concern that guidance on which tests would be accepted had not been published early enough.
Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, described the delay in introducing the new rules as “truly shocking”.
She wrote on Twitter on Thursday night: “Questioned PM repeatedly today on why border testing/quarantine is weaker than other countries.
“Repeatedly he said Government is bringing in new testing (months later than elsewhere but due Friday).
“But now it’s not. More delays. As they haven’t published guidance in time.”
Travellers will need to present proof of a negative test result to their carrier on boarding, while the UK Border Force will conduct spot checks on arrivals.
New arrivals who flout the rules will face a minimum £500 fine, while the operator who transported them will also be fined.
Passengers will still have to quarantine for 10 days regardless of their test results.
Travellers will have to take an internationally approved test, and guidance released by the Department for Transport said they could include polymerise chain reaction (PCR) tests, nasal and throat swab tests which take between 12 and 24 hours to return results.
Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance discusses the Brazilian strain with Political Editor Robert Peston
Loop-mediated isothermal amplification (Lamp) tests, which can return results in two to three hours, and lateral flow tests, which generate results in less than 30 minutes, are also acceptable.
Results can be produced as physical documents or by email or text, but must be in English, French or Spanish. Translations will not be accepted.
British nationals attempting to return home who test positive must not travel and must follow the local guidance in their host country, and contact the nearest consulate if they need support.
Scotland is taking the same approach to international travellers but will implement the policy on Friday.