Portugal’s tourism hopes dashed as UK rejects air bridge

 In Economy, News, Tourism

Quarantine-free travel between England and Portugal has been rejected as Portugal fails to make the UK’s list of Covid-19 safe countries to which to travel.


The bad news broken this morning (Friday 24 July) by the Daily Telegraph will be a bitter pill to swallow for Algarve businesses – those run by Brits and Portuguese – who are rapidly seeing all hopes of salvaging the summer season dashed on the rocks. Some of these British-owned businesses are facing ruin.

It means that Britain is to maintain its travel ban on Portugal, forcing UK holidaymakers to quarantine for 14 days on their return.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, announced on Friday that the Government has rejected Portugal’s bid to be added to a “safe” list of 74 countries and territories exempt from UK quarantine.
Spain remains on the list despite, like Portugal, having faced a surge in Covid-19 outbreaks that have forced regional authorities to reintroduce local restrictions.
As of July 28, five new countries will be added to the list. They are Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The announcement is likely to provoke anger in Portugal which each year welcomes two million Britons to the Algarve, accounting for a fifth of its tourist income. A media source in the Algarve expressed the view that the decision simply “doesn’t make sense” and surmised that someone in the PS Government of António Costa had “rubbed senior figures in the UK government up the wrong way”.

In an article for The Daily Telegraph after the original travel ban decision, the Portuguese ambassador accused Britain of causing “immense” and potentially “lasting” damage to his country and claimed its decision was based on unclear science.

But according to yesterday’s The Times newspaper, it had been understood that Portugal, one of the most popular countries for British holidaymakers, was due to be added to the list of 59 to which travel is possible without the need for isolation on return.
The move was expected to happen after powerful lobbying from the Portuguese Government which was angered by the “absurd” decision to leave the country off the original list of Covid-safe travel corridors published by the UK government at the start of this month.
The Times was the same newspaper which originally broke the news that Portugal would not make the travel corridor list of countries after it emerged than cases of Covid-19 had begun to rise in outlying areas of Greater Lisbon – despite the fact that the Algarve region is nearly 300 kilometres away.
According to the Times, the list of 75 countries and territories would not be changed radically, but it had been hoped that un-quarantined travel to Portugal would be allowed.
On Tuesday, The Sun newspaper ran an exclusive in which it stated that Portugal “will be deemed safe” in the next quarantine review coming up in a few days time.
On Wednesday the Telegraph said the British Government was “considering regional air bridges” to allow travel to such countries as Portugal and the United States and stop entire nations being subject to UK quarantine rules.
According to the Sun it would mean that: “Brits can soon jet off to the Algarve next week without having to quarantine on return”. That hope has been dashed.
Of course, all the expectations could have been simply wishful thinking on the part of the Portuguese Government and British press, since none of the suppositions that an air bridge would be opened had ever actually been confirmed despite the enormous pressure that had been building since the British Government released its ‘green list’ of so-called safe countries at the beginning of July.
A number of these ‘safe countries’ (Spain in particular) have been registering virus outbreaks far in excess of anything ongoing in Portugal and these outbreaks in neighbouring Spain could have influenced the decision.
Indeed, Spain’s is at such a ‘tipping point’ now that The Sun believes it’s about to lose its air bridge altogether. Branding the story “Costa Hell Sol” The Sun warns that: “Droves of Brits have already flocked to the Costas and Balearics” but now risk being forced into 14 days of quarantine on their return.