Europe

Portugal questions UK’s decision to remove it from safe travel list

Tourism operators say Britain tourists start 'tsunami of cancellations' to avoid compulsory 10-day quarantine

Alyssa McMurtry   | 04.06.2021
Portugal questions UK’s decision to remove it from safe travel list

OVIEDO, Spain

The Portuguese government has questioned the UK’s decision to remove Portugal from its safe holiday destinations list, which has sent shockwaves through the country’s tourism industry.

“We take note of the British decision to remove Portugal from the travel 'green list,' the logic of which we cannot understand. Portugal continues to carry out its prudent and gradual de-confinement plan, with clear rules for the safety of those who live here and those who visit us,” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Augusto Santos Silva said in a statement late Thursday.

Portugal was the only country in the EU to have landed a spot on the UK’s coveted green list, which allowed British travelers to return home without being quarantined.

But the excitement that the rare status brought to the country was short-lived. Any Briton returning home from Portugal after Tuesday will now be required to isolate for 10 days. This has left many of the British tourists who are already in Portugal scrambling to cut their holidays short.

Raul Martins, president of the Portuguese Hotel Association, told local daily Diario de Noticias that he is witnessing a “tsunami of cancellations,” particularly in the sun-soaked region of Algarve, where he described the situation as “dramatic.”

“London’s decision is going to have a huge impact on tourism since the British make up a large percentage of tourism arrivals. Over the next three weeks, we’re going to see very heavy losses, especially in Algarve,” Martins added.

Martins, like other high-profile voices in Portugal, called the UK’s move “excessive” and “not justifiable.”

Increase in COVID-19 cases

On Thursday, the country’s Health Ministry reported 769 new cases – the highest number in two months. On the same day, three people died.

But Portugal still has one of the lowest infection rates in the EU. The infection rate in Spain, for instance, is more than twice that of Portugal, although both will soon be on the UK’s “amber list.”

The infection rate in Portugal is only slightly higher than in the UK. Over the last week, Portugal reported an average of 394 cases per million people, while the UK reported 386, according to Our World in Data, a tracking website.

“The British argue that they are worried about importing variants of the virus, especially the one from India. But we have very few cases of that here, while they have a lot. It seems like this is a political decision more than anything else,” said Martins.

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