UK mandates quarantine on return from Portugal
Portugal will be removed from England’s so-called “green list” allowing quarantine-free travel between the two countries, the UK government said Thursday, in a move slammed by Lisbon and Britain’s tourism sector.
ortugal will be removed from England’s so-called “green list” allowing quarantine-free travel between the two countries, the UK government said Thursday, in a move slammed by Lisbon and Britain’s tourism sector.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland announced the same rule would also apply to their travellers.
The move could prove highly disruptive to thousands of British holidaymakers, after Portugal was the only European nation placed on the green list when it was first unveiled last month.
The Portugese foreign ministry reacted angrily, tweeting: “We take note of the British decision to remove Portugal from the travel ‘green list’, the logic of which we cannot understand”.
A popular summer destination for Britons, from Tuesday at 4 am (0300 GMT) Portugal will be on the amber list, which requires travellers to quarantine at home for 10 days on their return and take several Covid-19 tests.
It joins other European Union countries on the list, with no nations added to the green section.
The British government advises against travel to amber-listed countries unless for a limited number of exceptional reasons, which does not include holidays.
Meanwhile seven countries — Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Trinidad & Tobago — will move from England’s amber list to its red list from Tuesday, requiring 10 days costly quarantine in a hotel on return. Only travellers who have British or Irish citizenship or residency rights can enter from these countries.
– ‘Don’t want risk’ –
Shapps said he ordered the change to Portugal’s status because its infection rate had nearly doubled since the last review in mid-May, when Britain lifted a ban on non-essential international travel.
The Portugese foreign ministry tweeted that the country is implementing a “prudent and gradual deconfinement plan”, however.
Shapps also cited instances of a mutation of the Delta variant, first identified in India and fast becoming the dominant strain in Britain — where cases are on the rise again after weeks of decline.
The UK reported 5,274 new cases on Thursday, the highest figure since late March.
A total of 12,431 cases of the Delta variant had been identified in the UK by Wednesday, according to Public Health England.
“We just don’t know the potential for that to be (a) vaccine-defeating mutation and simply don’t want to take the risk as we come up to June 21,” Shapps said.
Britain is set to ease the last of its lockdown measures on that date.
The government is facing calls to delay lifting the remaining measures — which include social distancing, wearing face masks and a work from home recommendation — as infections rise once again.
But ministers are putting their faith in the country’s successful vaccine drive.
Over half of British adults have now had both doses of the authorised two-shot Covid-19 inoculations, while more than three-quarters have received at least a single dose.
Thursday’s updates to the travel list, which will be reviewed in three weeks, were heavily criticised by airlines, airports and tour operators.
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren called Portugal’s designation a “shock decision” that “simply isn’t justified by the science”, while Virgin Atlantic boss Shai Weiss branded the government’s approach “overly cautious”.
“We are yet to see clear and transparent guidance on the methodology and data the government is basing these decisions on,” Weiss added.
The chief executive of the UK’s busiest airport Heathrow, John Holland-Kaye, complained that the government’s move was “all but guaranteeing another lost summer for the travel sector”.
EasyJet and IAG, the owner of British Airways, were among sector leaders that saw their share prices fall significantly as a result of the new guidance on Portugal.