Britain will ban arrivals from Brazil, other South American states and Portugal due to concerns over a new coronavirus variant, transport minister Grant Shapps said on Thursday.

“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 – from tomorrow, 15 Jan at 4am (0400 GMT) following evidence of a new variant in Brazil,” Shapps said on Twitter.

Portugal was also added to the banned list because of close travel links with Brazil, he said. Workers transporting essential good from Portugal would be exempt.

Shapps said the new measures would not apply to British and Irish nationals and third country nationals with residence rights, but passengers returning from those destinations must self-isolate for 10 days.

On Sunday, Japan said the variant had been found in four travellers from Brazil’s Amazonas state. It shares some characteristics with variants in Britain and South Africa which are believed to be more transmissible than normal.

In December, Brazil suspended flights from Britain due the emergence of the British variant of the coronavirus.