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The UK is "taking steps" to keep out cases of a coronavirus variant discovered in Brazil, Boris Johnson has said.

Speaking to MPs on the Liaison Committee, Boris Johnson said the he was "concerned" about the variant, adding: "I think it's fair to say that there are lots of questions we still have."

But he refused to say if the UK had plans to close its borders with Brazil when quizzed by Health Committee chair Jeremy Hunt.

Mr Johnson said: “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.”

Home Affairs Select Committee chair Yvette Cooper slammed Mr Johnson – asking why it was still possible to get direct flights from Brazil.

Ms Cooper said the slow reaction was an example of the UK government's lax approach to quarantine procedures throughout the pandemic.

Mr Johnson insisted extra measures are being put in place to prevent the Brazilian coronavirus variant being imported to the UK – but didn't outline what they were when pushed.

Ms Cooper said: “We were warned about the Brazil variant three days ago, we don’t know yet whether that will potentially undermine the vaccination programme so why aren’t you taking immediate action on a precautionary basis?”

Mr Johnson replied: “Well we are and we’re putting in extra measures to ensure that people coming from Brazil are checked and indeed stopping people coming from Brazil.”

Ms Cooper asked: “Are you, that’s a new announcement?”

“No sorry I said what we were looking at was the question of whether or not the Brazilian variant is immune resistant,” he said.

In the wake of a highly infectious new strain emerging in the UK before Christmas, large parts of the world slammed closed their borders to UK travellers.

The UK also introduced measures to restrict travel to and from South Africa in the wake of another variant being discovered there.

Mr Johnson said UK authorities were monitoring the strain
(Image: PRU/AFP via Getty Images)

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“There are lots of questions we still have about that variant, we don’t know for instance, any more than we know whether the South African variant is vaccine resistant.”

On Sunday, authorities in Japan recorded the variant in  four travelers from Brazil's Amazonas state.

The variant was found in airport tests on a man in his 40s, a woman in her 30s and two teens.

Cases were reported by authorities in Japan on Sunday
(Image: Getty Images)

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The man who tested positive had no symptoms upon arrival but was hospitalised after his breathing became difficult.

The woman suffered headaches, one teen had a fever, while the other teen had no symptoms, according to the ministry.

Officials in Japan said studies were underway into the efficacy of vaccines against the new variant, which differs from highly-infectious strain that orginated in the UK or the strain that emerged in South Africa.

Research into the effectiveness of the current vaccine on all three strain is ongoing.

"At the moment, there is no proof showing the new variant found in those from Brazil is high in infectiousness," Takaji Wakita, head of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, told the Reuters news service.