All arrivals from South America, Cape Verde, Panama and Portugal will be subject to a travel ban from Friday, January 15.

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said travellers from the above countries will be subject to a travel ban after a new variant of Covid was detected in Brazil.

In a tweet, Mr Shapps said he has decided to take the "urgent" decision to ban arrivals from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

He also suspended the travel link between the UK and Portugal and cited "its strong travel links with Brazil" as the reason after a new Covid variant was found in the country.

The travel ban will not apply to British and Irish nationals who wish to come home but added that anyone who arrives back in the UK must isolate for 10 days.

Mr Shapps suspended the travel link between the UK and Portugal and cited "its strong travel links with Brazil" as the reason

Mr Shapps said: "I’ve taken the urgent decision to BAN ARRIVALS from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela

"Travel from Portugal to the UK will also be suspended given its strong travel links with Brazil – acting as another way to reduce the risk of importing infections.

"However, there is an exemption for hauliers travelling from Portugal (only), to allow transport of essential goods.

"This measure does not apply to British and Irish Nationals and third country nationals with residence rights – but passengers returning from these destinations must self-isolate for ten days along with their households."

A new Covid variant has been detected in Brazil

The decision appears to contradict Boris Johnson’s earlier claim the UK’s current border controls are "tough" enough to "protect" the country against the Brazilian variant.

Just a day earlier, Mr Johnson told MPS on the Liaison Committee: "We already have tough measures... to protect this country from new infections coming in from abroad. We are taking steps to do that in respect of the Brazilian variant."

Mr Shapps said he has decided to take the "urgent" decision to ban arrivals

Responding to MP Yvette Cooper who questioned him about this, the prime minister said he is "taking steps to ensure we don't see the import of the new variant," but didn't elaborate further.

From January 15th holidaymakers will also have to produce a negative test result for coronavirus 72 hours before departure.

Wales and Scotland said it would adopt the same rule, although no date has been confirmed for those nations.