Holiday chaos as Portugal removed from UK’s quarantine-free travel green list - GulfToday

Holiday chaos as Portugal removed from UK’s quarantine-free travel green list


People have their tickets checked while queuing for the West End show 'The Show Must Go On' at the Palace Theatre, in London on Thursday. Reuters

Britain said on Thursday that it is removing Portugal from its list of COVID-safe travel destinations, meaning thousands of UK residents currently on vacation there face the prospect of 10 days' quarantine on return.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the "difficult decision” was prompted by rising infection rates in Portugal and worries about new strains of the virus that could prove resistant to vaccines.

AirportUKPassengers push their luggage on arrival in Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport. AFP

Shapps said: "There’s a sort of Nepal mutation of the so-called Indian variant which has been detected and 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” — the date the UK government hopes to lift remaining coronavirus restrictions.

The change will take effect at 4am on Tuesday. It joins other European Union countries on the list, with no nations added to the green section.

Meanwhile seven countries, including Egypt and Sri Lanka, will be added to England's red list from Tuesday, requiring 10 days costly quarantine in a hotel on return.

Park-London1People relax in the warm weather at Granary Square, London. Reuters

UK residents returning from red list countries must spend 10 days in a government-approved quarantine hotel. Travellers returning from dozens of "amber list” countries, including the United States, must complete a 10-day quarantine at home. Territories including Iceland, Israel and the Falkland Islands remain on the UK green list.


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.

Swimming-KidUKZiggy Starkey, 16-months-old, leaves after swimming in the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, Britain. Reuters

Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency travel consultancy, called the moves a "terrible decision." "They are basically putting at risk tens of thousands of jobs across aviation and the travel sector, and not showing any signs of helping the sector to recover."

The UK has recorded almost 128,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe. A mass vaccination campaign that started in December has brought new infections and deaths down sharply, but case numbers are once again rising as a more transmissible virus variant, named Delta by the World Health Organisation and first identified in India, spreads across the UK.

VirusUK2People have their temperature checked while queuing for the West End show at the Palace Theatre in London. Reuters

Portugal is a major destination for sun-seeking Britons, and was the only large tourism destination on the UK government’s "green list,” announced last month, of places that can be visited without the need to self-isolate on return.

Tourism, by mainly British visitors, is a mainstay of the southern European country’s economy, accounting for around 15% of annual gross domestic product.

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