Britain’s top diplomat in Lisbon has warned that the new air bridge to Portugal could “quickly change” as holidaymakers scrambled to return ahead of an expected reimposition of quarantine restrictions.
Chris Sainty, the UK ambassador to Portugal, fuelled speculation that the restrictions for those travelling back from Portugal could be introduced again later this week only two weeks after they were lifted.
Before a weekly meeting on Thursday to review the travel corridor list, Sainty warned potential travellers to Portugal to only travel “if you are content to unexpectedly quarantine if required”. He also reminded travellers that “things can change quickly”.
Sainty’s remarks come after the number of coronavirus cases in Portugal increased above 20 per 100,000 people, a level which the UK government considers triggering quarantine conditions requiring those returning to self-isolate for 14 days.
There were 22.3 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in Portugal in the seven days to 31 August, up from 14.5 a week earlier. The seven-day rate in the UK currently stands at 13.9.
If Thursday’s meeting decides to remove Portugal from the list of safe countries, those returning from the country can expect quarantine to be imposed from Saturday at 4am.
EasyJet has sold out all its flights from Faro, which serves the Algarve, to airports in Britain on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
British Airways is selling seats on a flight from Faro to Heathrow on Thursday for £554, while the same journey can be made seven days later for just £139.
The boss of British Airways’ parent company has warned that reimposing quarantine for people returning to or visiting the UK from Portugal would cause further “chaos and hardship” for travellers.
Writing in The Times, Willie Walsh, the chief executive of International Airlines Group, claimed the “ever-shifting list” means “the UK has officially hung up the ‘closed’ sign”.
He added: “The government is using arbitrary statistics to effectively ban 160 countries and in the process destroying the economy. The government needs to introduce a testing regime to restore confidence.”
Despite the risk of quarantine be reimposed, Visit Portugal, an initiative by the Portuguese government to encourage tourism, is still encouraging UK holidaymakers to travel.
Its English language Twitter feed on Tuesday tweeted: “#Algarve a go-go! … The air bridge to Portugal is up, and that means the joys of the Algarve are available once more to British holidaymakers.”
There was no warning that quarantine could be reintroduced as early as this weekend.
In June, the Portuguese foreign minister, Augusto Santos Silva, complained that “quarantine is an enemy of tourism”.
Source: The Guardian