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Portugal penalized by UK for “speaking the truth”, claims Algarve Tourism board

73tourism boardThe president of the Algarve Tourism has said this Friday that Portugal was “penalized for speaking the truth” in relation to the number of new cases of Covid-19, one of the criteria that led to the country’s exclusion from an air corridor with the United Kingdom.

“We were clearly penalized for speaking the truth. When we compare the number of tests per 100 thousand inhabitants of different countries, we realize that there are countries that have been privileged in this new condition because they test three, four times less than Portugal ”, said João Fernandes.

According to the official, the decision – which implies that the British will have to comply with quarantine on their return to their home country, if they spend their holidays in Portugal – is not based on “facts”, and there are several factors that were not considered.

“It is in the new cases per 100 thousand inhabitants [that the decision is based], portraying a short period, it is not portraying the number of active cases per 100 thousand inhabitants, because there are cases that come from before that period”, he argued.

Portugal, where several localised outbreaks have arisen in the past few weeks, is not on the list this Friday, which published the 59 countries and territories where the British will be able to go on holiday without quarantining on their return and which includes Spain, Germany, Greece, Italy, Macau or Jamaica.

The system will go into effect next Friday, July 10, and will prevent those arriving from these countries from having to stay in isolation for 14 days, as is currently the case with all people arriving in England from abroad, otherwise risking a fine of up to a thousand pounds.

According to João Fernandes, the British market “is the most expressive in the region” throughout the year, representing almost six million overnight stays, despite, in the summer, the most relevant market for the Algarve being the national market.

However, he underlined, “there is no illusion” that the decision this Friday “can cool the momentum of growth and demand of the United Kingdom by the region and by the country in general”, despite Portugal being one of the countries “with less lethality rate”.

For Fernandes, if the Algarve were evaluated using a more fair set of criteria, it would have conditions “much more advantageous than most other regions”, since, since the beginning of the pandemic, it has “a very residual expression of cases”, with only “1.5% of cases in Portugal”.

In addition, he stressed, the decision is “unjustified” if one considers the fact that “68% of hotel stays from the British from July to September in our territory take place in the Algarve”.

The president of Algarve Tourism believes, however, that the British will continue to travel to the Algarve, although probably in smaller numbers, as they were already doing so even though they had to comply with quarantine.

“[The decision] goes against the will of British tourists, because we resumed connections in mid-June with the United Kingdom, today we are connected to 20 different airports, from all regions of the United Kingdom, with five different airlines”, he concluded.

The announcement made this Friday applies only to England because Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland possess autonomy over health matters and it is up to the respective governments to determine the measures they intend to introduce.

The United Kingdom is the main outbound market for tourists to Portugal, having accounted for 19.2% of overnight stays from foreigners in 2019 and has been recording successive growth since 2013, only interrupted in 2018, according to INE data.

The preferred destinations for British guests were the Algarve (63.4% of overnight stays in the market), Madeira (18.5%) and the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (10.8%).

The UK recorded 43,995 deaths up to Thursday (out of 283,757 cases of infection) during the Covid-19 pandemic, the highest number in Europe and the third largest in the world, behind the USA and Brazil.

Portugal accounts for at least 1,587 deaths associated with Covid-19, and 42,782 confirmed cases of infection, according to the latest bulletin from the Directorate-General for Health (DGS).