The UK will remove Portugal from its quarantine-free, green travel list from Tuesday, amid growing coronavirus cases and concern over a “Nepal mutation of the so-called Indian variant”.
The news comes as a blow to airlines and Portugal’s tourism sector as it essentially shuts down the UK’s international leisure market only a few weeks after it reopened.
Outraged by the announcement, the industry questioned why UK residents could not travel when the country had one of the highest vaccine rates worldwide. Portugal claimed the decision lacked logic, while airports demanded a cash lifeline.
UK’s Transport minister Grant Shapps however, commented that since COVID-19 variants had been detected in Portugal, the UK was forced to restrict its borders to one of the country’s big European holiday destinations and prioritize on its national reopening instead.
In the revision of Britain’s Traffic Light list, the country failed to add any more countries to its Green-list. Enraged by this, easyJet, British Airways and London’s Heathrow Airport accused UK official of trying to seal the country off from the rest of the world.
Shapps said, “It’s a safety-first measure.” He went on to add that the move was designed to avoid any further coronavirus variants from arriving in the UK which might threaten the planned final stage of Britain’s reopening on June 21.
After over four months of lockdown, Britain tentatively relaunched travel on May 17, using a traffic-light system where arrivals from countries on the green-list do not have to quarantine. Those arriving from amber countries will need to self-quarantine at home, while passengers from red countries are required to undergo expensive hotel quarantine.
Apart from Portugal being moved to the amber list, Britain also added seven more countries to its red list.
Portugal’s travel industry, reeling from the pandemic, finally saw some light after being placed on UK’s green list. It now however, faces weeks of cancellations and uncertainty.
“This decision essentially cuts the UK off from the rest of the world,” easyJet said.
“Summer 2021 is shaping up to be worse than last summer, which was the worst in aviation history,” said the Airport Operators Association, adding that the government should provide a financial bailout to prevent loss of jobs if it blocks another holiday season.
Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said, “In the week that the Prime Minister hosts G7 leaders to launch his government’s vision of Global Britain, he’s sending a message that the UK will remain isolated from the rest of the world and closed to most of its G7 partners.”