The UK Government has taken the “urgent decision” to ban arrivals from all South American nations – among them Colombia – as well as Panama, citing concerns over contagion with the new Brazilian variant of coronavirus.

The entry restriction goes into effect from Friday, January 15, and includes Portugal and Cape Verde given their close ties with Brazil. The announcement by Transport Minister Grant Shapps threatens to leave Britons stranded across South America with the pandemic given the absence of travel corridors with the United Kingdom, yet the measure does exempt British and Irish nationals – as well as third-country citizens with residency status – as long as all arriving passengers self-isolate for 10 days.

In a statement published by the UK Foreign Office (FCO) “people who share a household with anyone self-isolating after returning from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Cape Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Panama, Portugal, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela will now also need to self-isolate until 10 days have passed since anyone they live with was last in those countries.”

A flight ban for the only two South American nations – Argentina and Brazil – that offer direct air routes to the UK also goes into effect with the new restriction. The Colombian Government on December 20 suspended the direct Bogotá- London flight (operated by Avianca) over concerns that the highly infectious UK variant of coronavirus could be imported by travelers.

The FCO recently advised against all but essential travel to Colombia and warned that as of Friday, visitors who have been in – or transited through Colombia –  in the previous 10 days will be barred entry to the UK.