Downing Street has insisted it “as quickly as possible” to prevent a Brazilian strain entering the UK, despite evidence it has already arrived.
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds accused the Conservatives of being “far too slow to protect our borders against Covid”.
He said: “It is terrible news that evidence of the highly infectious Covid variant from Brazil has been found in the UK.
“This is yet another example of the Conservatives being far too slow to protect our borders against Covid, closing the door after the horse has bolted.
“The utter chaos around airport testing, travel restrictions and quarantine is the fault of the government. They have no proper strategy in place and this incompetence is putting lives at risk.”
But the prime minister’s official spokesman argued they had acted quickly.
He said: “It’s obviously right that we continue to look at different variants and take action accordingly.
“As soon as we identified this variant our teams were quickly working on this and, given that we know this could pose a significant risk to the UK, we acted as quickly as possible, which is why you’ve seen this travel ban from those countries enacted quickly.”
He said evidence currently suggests that the concerning new Brazilian variant of coronavirus may be more transmissible but does not affect vaccines.
He added said that scientists at the government’s Porton Down research facility are investigating the new strain.
“As with some of the other variants we’ve seen, the Kent variant and the South Africa variant, evidence does suggest that it may be more transmissible,” he added.
“More research is required to confirm this and Porton Down will conduct that research but current evidence does not suggest that the strain causes any higher mortality rate or that it affects the vaccines or treatments.”