Portugal is at risk of being put back on the quarantine list as coronavirus cases surpass UK government threshold

Tuesday, 1st September 2020, 11:57 am
Updated Tuesday, 1st September 2020, 11:58 am
Covid-19 cases in the country are now at a level that is considered dangerous (Photo: Shutterstock)
Covid-19 cases in the country are now at a level that is considered dangerous (Photo: Shutterstock)

Quarantine restrictions could be reimposed on UK travellers returning from Portugal due to a rise in coronavirus cases.

The recent spike means Covid-19 cases in the country are now at a level that is considered dangerous, with the surge coming just over a week since Portugal was added to the UK’s safe travel corridors.

Will Portugal be added to the quarantine list?

In the seven days up to 30 August, there were 21.1 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in Portugal, up from 19.4 in the seven days to 29 August.

The latest figures show that the current seven-day infection rate is now above the threshold of 20 per 100,000, the rate at which the UK government considers triggering quarantine restrictions.

However, the figure does not automatically trigger quarantine restrictions to be reinstated.

Instead, a decision on whether travellers returning from Portugal to the UK will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days once again is not expected to be announced until Thursday (3 September) at the earliest.

When are quarantine restrictions reviewed?

The UK government’s travel corridor list is reviewed every Thursday, ahead of the weekend when the revised conditions come into force.

The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland typically follow suit and impose the same measures as in England, with some recent exceptions which saw only Scotland add Switzerland to its quarantine list.

A source at the Department for Transport said: “Decisions around which countries are added or removed to the list are based on the joint biosecurity centre coronavirus risk assessment, which is informed by a number of factors, including the continued increase of coronavirus within a country and the number of new cases, and potential trajectory of the disease in the coming weeks.”

What is the latest travel advice for Portugal?

Portugal, including Madeira, Porto Santo and the Azores, is currently exempt from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice against all non-essential international travel, based on the assessment of coronavirus risks.

On 22 August, Portugal was added to the list of countries where self-isolation on return to the UK is not required.

However, travellers still need to provide their journey and contact details before travelling.

‘More chaos and hardship’

Putting Portugal back on the UK’s quarantine list would cause further misery and disruption for travellers, the boss of British Airways’ parent company has warned.

Writing in The Times, Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group, said: “Another U-turn by the government, adding Portugal to the quarantine list, will cause further chaos and hardship for travellers.”

Walsh said that the “ever-shifting” list of countries requiring quarantine 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.”

Google search data showed that demand for travel to Portugal is high, with findings showing a significant spike in searches for the term “flights to Portugal” by users in the UJ at around 6pm on Thursday 20 August, the day the lifting of quarantine restrictions was announced.

A number of easyJet flights from London airports to destinations across Portugal on the weekend of Saturday 22 August were already unavailable on the Friday.

Jet2 also capitalised on the rush, adding extra seats to Faro from Monday 24 August from airports across the UK.