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Portugal added to UK air-bridge list following tourism industry furor

102air bridgeThe British government today announced the inclusion of Portugal in the UK’s list of countries with “travel corridors”, meaning that British passengers travelling back to their home country are exempt from fulfilling a two-week quarantine period, imposed due to the ongoing pandemic.

“Data also shows we can now add Portugal to those countries INCLUDED in Travel Corridors. As with all air bridge countries, please be aware that things can change quickly. Only travel if you are content to unexpectedly 14-day quarantine if required (I speak from experience!)” said Transport Minister Grant Shapps, via Twitter.

On the contrary, Croatia, Austria and the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, in the Caribbean, will be removed from the air bridge list due to their growing number of infections, as had happened last week with France, the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks and Caicos, and Aruba, and previously with Belgium, Andorra, the Bahamas, Spain and Luxembourg.

Shapps speaks with personal experience in the matter of quarantining post-holiday, as he was infamously forced to stay 14 days in isolation when returning from a vacation in Spain after the country had been removed from the UK’s safe travel list.

British press has also speculated on the possible removal of Greece and Switzerland from the list of “safe countries” due to the increase in the number of infections in those countries, but today’s announcement by the Ministry of Transport did not mention these European countries.

Portugal thus joins a small group of countries that have been added to the list of “travel corridors” with the United Kingdom, which was first released in mid-July, but currently include Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia, the archipelago of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Brunei and Malaysia.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps explained last week that countries with more than 20 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in a moving average over seven days are considered to be at risk, but below this figure they are considered safe.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Portugal has been registering a decrease in the number of infections, having recorded 27.8 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last two weeks.

The UK introduced the need for 14 days of self-isolation to all people arriving from the UK to foreign countries on June 8 to avoid importing infections, but a month later exempted some 70 countries and territories, considered low risk.

The quarantine exemption is accompanied by a change in the advice of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MNE) against non-essential travel to those destinations, which is important change in guidance for travel insurance purposes.

Portugal, like Sweden and the United States, was outside the British list of safe destinations since its inception, a decision that the Portuguese government, press, and businessmen questioned as it was considered by many to be a decision not “based on facts and figures”.

The United Kingdom is the main outbound market for tourists to Portugal, having accounted for around 20% of the total in 2019. The UK has so far recorded 41,403 deaths, the highest number in Europe and the third highest in the world behind the USA and Brazil.

In Portugal, 1,788 people died of the 54,992 confirmed as infected, according to the most recent bulletin from the Directorate-General for Health.