UK opens air corridor to Portugal – finally

 In News, Tourism

At last common sense has prevailed on the British Government which decided on Thursday to finally lift a controversial and contentious Covid-19 travel restriction which meant travellers returning from Portugal to the UK had to go into enforced quarantine for 14 days.

The announcement that Britain has finally acknowledged Portugal as a ‘safe travel’ destination has been welcomed by minister for foreign affairs Augusto Santos Silva, who says it is “very important” in so many ways.
It means the 300,000 Portuguese living and working in UK will now be able to come over and visit their families without the burden of facing a 14-day period of quarantine on their return. It means the 30,000 Brits who already live in Portugal are much more free to come and go – and it means the ‘many hundreds of Portuguese students’ who attend British universities are not now faced with a mountain of problems as the new academic year begins.
An official statement from the British Government released via the UK Embassy in Lisbon read: “The UK Government has today announced that Portugal will be added to the list of travel corridors, following a review of the latest data by the UK’s Joint Biosecurity Centre”.
“From 0400 hours on 22 August 2020, passengers arriving in the UK from Portugal (including the autonomous regions of Madeira and the Azores) will no longer need to self-isolate, so long as they have not been in, or transited through any other non-exempt countries in the fourteen days preceding their arrival. Passengers arriving in the UK before that deadline will be required to complete the full 14 day self-isolation period.
All travellers arriving in the UK, including those from exempt destinations, will still be required to show a complete passenger locator form on arrival into the UK, unless they fall into a small group of exemptions.  UK travel advice restrictions to mainland Portugal have been removed with immediate effect.
The British Embassy wishes to thank the Portuguese authorities for their constructive cooperation in recent weeks, including regularly providing updated figures on the evolution of the virus in Portugal,” read the statement.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said people will need to self-isolate for 14 days on returning from Croatia, Austria and Trinidad and Tobago.
The changes apply to anyone arriving after 04:00 BST on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Scottish government has added Switzerland to its list of countries requiring quarantine.
The Portuguese government welcomed the changes as “useful for all those who travel between Portugal and the United Kingdom”.
It said the move was “proof of the good outcome of intense bilateral work” and “allowed for an understanding that the situation in the country has always been under control”.
The President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa called it “great news” which opened the way for the Algarve and other regions to speed up their economic recovery.”
In a statement from Portimão, he said, “I hope too that Ireland follows suit, but what the UK has done is so important that you have no idea and makes all the difference. If this decision is important for Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve, the here in the Algarve it makes a huge difference,” said the president reacting to the news.
The news was met with general relief and optimism. For many of Portugal’s most popular holiday destinations, the travel corridor promises the chance of late summer/early autumn tourism to help pull the battered economy back from the brink.
The minister who lambasted as ‘absurd’ the fact that Portugal was repeatedly blocked from the UK’s green-list in through July and the early part of this month, says the fact that restrictions have finally been removed is “recognition of the positive evolution of the situation in Portugal, namely the capacity for testing on a large scale, the detection of positive cases, the control of their transmission and their treatment in the most adequate way”.
In a statement released this afternoon, the ministry referred to “intense bilateral work” that had gone on behind the scenes “both on a political and technical level”.
The British decision appears to apply to every corner of mainland Portugal as well as the autonomous regions of Madeira and Azores.
By coincidence, earlier today prime minister António Costa was talking at the Centro Hospital Vila Nova da Gaia, stressing that Portugal has to learn to live with the virus, but that the SNS health service is reinforced and totally prepared to deal with whatever may come in the autumn.
The news was also greeted with optimism by Portugal’s national airline, TAP which immediately announced discounts of 15% to and from the UK.
TAP welcomed the raising of restrictions between the United Kingdom and Portugal. “The end of the mandatory quarantine period enables (TAP) to boost Portugal as a destination in the United Kingdom and as a measure to stimulate demand for trips to and from Portugal the national carrier has decided to launch a campaign offering 15% discounts on flights.”