Sources said ministers had acted on the basis of data that suggested patients with the variant become infectious more quickly than those with delta.
The airline industry accused the Government of rushing into the restrictions with insufficient information, following a devastating period for the sector since the start of the pandemic in early 2020.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: “We don’t know what this is yet and it is premature to hit industry and passengers before we see the full data.
“The red list extension made complete sense – that’s what it’s there for – but we know from experience that blanket restrictions do not stop the importation of variants. It’s already here.
“They’ve now changed their travel advice twice within a week. It’s impossible for anyone to plan.
Last week Mr Shapps said he hoped Britain would not reintroduce pre-departure tests telling Chopper’s Politics Podcast: “Do you want to kill off the travel sector again without knowing that you need to? Or do you want to take the right level of calibrated response?
“This Government thinks we should take a calibrated response, which doesn’t take us right back to the beginning of this [pandemic] … I believe in transport and I don’t want to see a world where we’re always finding excuses to restrict it. Of course, you’ve got to respond responsibly. That’s what I think we’ve done.”