Portugal has been added to the UK's list of travel corridors - here's why

(Photo: PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP via Getty Images)(Photo: PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo: PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP via Getty Images)

UK tourists will no longer need to quarantine after holidaying in Portugal, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced.

The country has been added to England and Scotland's exemption lists; the changes apply to anyone arriving after 4am on Saturday 22 August.

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But just why has it taken so long for Portugal to be added to the UK Government's list of exemptions?

Why did it take so long for Portugal to be added to the list?

On 3 July, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated its global advisory against ‘all but essential’ travel, exempting destinations that no longer pose a high risk for British travellers.

The Government revealed a list of more than 50 countries deemed safe enough for holidaymakers to travel to, without having to quarantine when they return to England.

But Portugal was not included in the travel corridor list, meaning that those returning would have to quarantine for 14 days if they do decide to travel there.

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At the time of the list's initial reveal, Portugal’s number of new cases per 100,000 inhabitants was the second highest in Europe.

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The Portuguese government said this was due to its high testing rate, though other countries weren't taking any chances.

More than 12 nations imposed restrictions on travel from Portugal, as a high count of several hundred new coronavirus cases per day - mainly on the outskirts of Lisbon - concerned authorities.

Why is it now on the list?

Portugal has now been added to the FCO's list of countries exempt from its global advisory against ‘all but essential’ travel.

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That means it has been "assessed as no longer presenting an unacceptably high risk to British people travelling abroad".

“Data also shows we can now add Portugal to those countries INCLUDED in Travel Corridors," tweeted Grant Shapps.

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Cases in Portugal dropped in the past week to 14.38 cases per 100,000 people, compared to 15 per 100,000 the week before - the rate has not been over 20 per 100,000 since the week of 15 - 22 July.

Shapp did add the caveat: "As with all air bridge countries, please be aware that things can change quickly.

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"Only travel if you are content to unexpectedly 14-day quarantine if required (I speak from experience!)”

Do I have to quarantine on arrival in Portugal?

Direct air travel to Portugal is permitted for any purpose from the UK, though you will be subject to health screening on arrival at mainland airports and ports.

Your temperature will be checked and if it is 38ºc or over or you show signs of being unwell, you will be referred to the health authorities at the airport, and may be required to take a COVID-19 test and to self-isolate at your accommodation.

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Cruise ships can berth at ports on mainland Portugal, but passengers can only disembark if they are Portuguese nationals or residents.

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For more information on travelling to Portugal, head to the FCO’s website

What are lockdown restrictions like in Portugal?

(Photo: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images)(Photo: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images)

Except for the Greater Lisbon Metropolitan Area, mainland Portugal is in a state of alert, but most shops and services, restaurants, cultural venues, leisure parks and sports facilities are open.

You must however observe the rules on social distancing and hygiene, including social distancing of 2 metres, the obligatory use of face masks in enclosed space, good hand hygiene, and the observance of the rules on maximum capacity.

Local and inter-regional travel is permitted in Portugal, but if you use public transport, avoid travelling at peak times and ensure you disinfect your hands before and after your journey.

You can be fined up to €500 if you breach the regulations.

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Beaches are subject to measures on capacity and social distancing (you can check beach occupancy levels on the Portuguese Environment Agency website), and drinking alcohol in public places, except for pavement cafés and restaurants, is banned.

Confinement is mandatory if you are suffering from or infected with coronavirus (COVID-19), or being actively monitored by the health authorities for COVID-19 symptoms.

The Greater Lisbon area is in a state of contingency due to localised outbreaks of COVID-19. In addition to the above measures, tighter restrictions are currently in place, including:

  • private and public gatherings are limited to 10 people
  • hops and services close at 8pm, with the exception of restaurants, supermarkets, chemists, sports facilities, petrol stations, health and veterinary clinics
  • the sale of alcohol is banned at service stations and after 8pm in shops and supermarkets
  • restaurants close at 1am; last orders are at midnight

For more information on travelling to Portugal, head to the FCO’s website

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When will flights resume?

Tour operator Jet2 plans to resume flights and holidays to Portugal's Algarve region next week.

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Multiple weekly flights to the southern Portuguese city will be reintroduced from Belfast International, Birmingham, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, London Stansted, Manchester, and Newcastle airports.

Jet2 is already operating flights to the Portuguese island of Madeira from Birmingham, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Leeds Bradford, Manchester, and London Stansted airports.

It said onboard cleaning and "in-resort care" following Covid-19 guidelines, were among measures in place to help ensure flights and holidays were safe.

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Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays said: "We welcome this change in government advice which means that customers can once again look forward to enjoying their well-deserved holidays in the stunning Algarve region.”