As Portugal moves to amber the UK Government’s Covid-19 travel rules are ambiguous
A massive setback to the already devastated travel industry left holiday plans for millions of Britons in tatters, with many undecided on whether to stay or go in the wake of the sudden changes.
Portugal is a massively popular destination for the British, with approximately 2.15 million tourists arriving in 2019. By this time in the summer, Portugal’s beaches, restaurants and bars are packed with tourists basking in the Mediterranean sun.
The UK government announced on Thursday that Portugal will be placed on the amber travel list after concern in the number of positive tests for Covid-19. The transition from green to the amber means UK that tourists should not visit the country except for essential travel and those returning must isolate for 10 days.
The sudden change presents great concern for many businesses in Portugal’s popular holiday destinations who are already struggling after a year of no tourism.
Leading tour operator, Tui says 50% of passengers due to travel from the UK to the country in June are still going, risking huge fines and effectively two-weeks of quarantine for their week or so in the sun.
The uncherished health minister for the UK, Matt Hancock said “It was not a decision I wanted to take, but we’re absolutely determined to keep this country safe, especially from novel variants coming from overseas”.
Portuguese Foreign Minister, Augusto Santos Silva reacted angrily to the decision, he said:
“When a country with 28 times more deaths from Covid-19 than Portugal imposes a quarantine on passengers coming from Portugal, I’d say the problem isn’t in Portugal, but the problem is in that country”
The change comes as seven countries, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Trinidad and Tobago are added to the red list, with the changes coming into effect from 4AM GMT on Tuesday 8th June.
The decision to move Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores) to the amber list follows increased concern in the spread of variants of coronavirus, including a mutation of the Delta variant, and the risk that is posed of bringing these back to the UK if people are not required to quarantine.
The Delta Covia-19 mutation has been recorded 92 times worldwide, just 12 of these were reported in Portugal and with 36 in the UK.
Communities Secretary in the UK, Robert Jenrick said “It is not clear that 12 cases is enough to count as being “prevalent within Portugal”.
The rules for travel to and from amber list countries
People returning to the UK require proof of a negative test, taken within 3 days before the service on which they will arrive in England departs. Those returning from amber countries must also book and pay for day 2 and day 8 COVID-19 travel tests for when they return to the UK.
The UK government advises against travel to amber destinations, although it is not unlawful to do so.
Those returning from an amber list country must:
- Take a Covid-19 test at least 3-days before departure and have proof of a negative result
- Complete a passenger locator form
- Book a Covid-19 test on days 2 and 8 following your return
- Quarantine for 10 days
Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary said that “moving Portugal on to the amber list is not the answer. The amber list itself should be scrapped”.
Meanwhile many, including the FirstforNews.com team, consider the amber scheme presents ambiguous law, following Mr Thomas-Symonds’s stance that the amber list should be scrapped. It should be green for go and red for stay and nothing in between.
FirstforNews commented that “it’s contradictory for people who all have to travel on public transport to get home, mixing freely with many members of public along the way, to then quarantine after having already exposed themselves in densely populated public transport, trains, tubes coaches and taxis”.
Robert Buckland MP, the UK’s Minister for Justice and formerly Solicitor General, one of the country’s two Law Minister’s certainly didn’t have the answers when interviewed on Good Morning Britain late last month.