UK government receives barrage of criticism over air bridge refusal

 In News, Tourism

The British Government’s “absurd and unfair” decision to exclude Portugal from a list of countries deemed safe to travel without the need for quarantine, has been slammed as “absurd and unfair” by the Portuguese Government.

The comments from the Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos Silva came after the British Government decided on Friday not to create an airbridge for UK tourists to Portugal without the need for returning British nationals to go into a 14 day quarantine.
A statement from the British Embassy issued on Friday said, “The British Government understands that these decisions are important for Portugal, for the travel and tourism sector in Portugal, for the Portuguese community resident in the UK and for the British community resident in Portugal.  The British Government considered the evidence very carefully before taking these decisions, with the aim of protecting public health and safety,” it said.
“Because of the relatively high incidence of COVID-19 cases, mainly in the Greater Lisbon area, British Government travel advice continues to recommend against all but essential travel to mainland Portugal.  In recognition of the much lower rates of infection in the autonomous regions of Madeira and the Azores, together with the fact that these islands are accessible by direct flights from the UK and have effective COVID-19 related entry controls, we are no longer recommending against non-essential travel to these regions. This change will come into effect on 4 July,” it continued.
And added, “With respect to the exceptional UK border control measures currently in force — namely mandatory fourteen day quarantine for people arriving in the UK – these measures will for the time being remain in force for all people arriving in the UK from the whole of Portugal.”
“Both the travel advice and border control measures will be kept under continuous review.  We hope and expect that the rate of infection in Portugal will decrease rapidly and that it will be possible to lift the remaining restrictions in the near future,” the statement concluded.
According to the Financial Times, the Lisbon Government said that the UK’s decision not to lift the quarantine measures has “no basis in science”.
Augusto Santos Silva said it was “difficult to understand how Britain could impose quarantine measures on travellers from Portugal when it had 28 times more coronavirus deaths.”
Last year, Portugal welcomed around 2 million holidaymakers from the UK but the UK Government’s decision excludes mainland Portugal from more than 70 countries from which tourists can return to England without facing a 14-day quarantine on their return.
The minister drew a comparison with what he described as the safe, well-ordered beaches of the Algarve and the recent crowded beach scenes in Bournemouth.
He said it was a sad moment in relations between the two countries, but added that Portugal would not retaliate by imposing similar quarantine restrictions on visitors from the UK.
Ricardo Baptista Leite, the PSD opposition health spokesman called the UK’s decision “absolutely shocking” and “not based on any scientific or rational criteria.”
“It makes no sense to green-light countries like France, the Netherlands and Belgium, but not Portugal which as one of the lowest Covid-19 case fatality rates in the world.”
“When Britain was at its darkest Covid hour with its prime minister in an intensive care bed with a Portuguese nurse at his side we never at any moment considered blocking our British friends from coming here.”
“Portugal will nor forget being blacklisted by Britain in a decision that has no scientific basis,” he said.