Home News Lagos outbreak, 111 cases, creates uncertainty over air corridor between Portugal and the United Kingdom

Lagos outbreak, 111 cases, creates uncertainty over air corridor between Portugal and the United Kingdom

Published on 23/06/2020

The British Government is set to roll out a removal of quarantine compliance for people traveling between the United Kingdom and certain countries with a low risk of infection of COVID-19, but the inclusion of Portugal in this list is uncertain, mainly due to a localised outbreak in Lagos, which has already caused 111 infected and may have harmed the image of the Algarve as being a safe destination for travel.

According to The Times newspaper, Boris Johnson’s government is close to outlining a list of around 10 countries considered safe for British tourists to travel without having to be in isolation for two weeks on their return, as is currently the case. The list includes countries like France, Spain, Greece, Italy and Turkey due to low levels of infection with coronavirus, but Portugal, the Times said, is the subject of an “intense debate” due to the recent outbreak in the Algarve, and struggles keeping infection rates down in some Lisbon neighbourhoods. A government source told the newspaper that “any decision to accept travel corridors with other countries will be based on strict public health criteria.”

A party in Odiáxere, in the municipality of Lagos has so far resulted in at least 111 infected people, of which 19 are children under 9 years old, indicated the Regional Health Administration (ARS) of the Algarve. The Portuguese Government has been active in lobbying the British authorities to open an “air corridor” to Portugal, the destination of more than 2.5 million Britons every year, which accounted for almost 20% of overnight stays from foreigners in 2019.

Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told the BBC in early June that he was in negotiations with London and expressed hope of reaching an agreement by the end of the month, and on Saturday the Portuguese ambassador to the United Kingdom, Manuel Lobo Antunes, also expressed interest in an agreement.

“We think the situation is under control and we would be happy to welcome as many British people as possible,” he told the BBC. Since 8 June, all people arriving from abroad to the UK, including Britons, have been required to remain in isolation for 14 days to reduce the likelihood of contagion from COVID-19. Transgressions will be punishable by fines of one thousand pounds (1,100 euros), exempting persons from Ireland, freight transport drivers, doctors who are involved in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, and seasonal agricultural workers.

The formal date for the conditions of this measure to be reviewed is next week, but Health Minister Matt Hancock revealed on Monday that the announcement could happen earlier. “We have a formal date for re-evaluating the quarantine policy at the end of the month and we will guarantee the publication in advance of what we plan to do in terms of where we think, based on epidemiological advice, we will be able to formalize travel corridors,” he said.