We must be ‘careful’ with international travel, says Matt Hancock
Transport secretary Grant Shapps cited fears over “a mutation of the Delta variant”, the virus mutation wreaking havoc in India, for plunging Portugal into the amber category, joining most of Europe. The mutation is linked to Nepal.
The decision was made by the government after an “almost doubling” in the country’s coronavirus positive test rate and the discovery of 68 cases of the Indian variant, including some with a mutation previously seen in Nepal.
Holidaymakers in the Atlantic nation now face a scramble home before the 8 June deadline.
No other countries joined the green list, while seven were added to the red list.
One slim ray of hope came from France, which announced that, from 9 June, fully vaccinated British holidaymakers will be allowed to enter the country, with no requirement to quarantine. However, France remains on Britain’s amber list, necessitating a 10-day quarantine and two PCR tests for all inbound travellers to the UK.
Follow live for industry reaction and any green list updates.
Travel company writes open letter to Grant Shapps
A disgruntled travel company boss has penned an open letter to the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, after yesterday’s devastating news that no new countries would be added to the UK’s travel green list, while Portugal is to be downgraded to amber.
Liddy Pleasants, Managing Director of Stubborn Mule Travel, writes:
Helen Coffey4 June 2021 14:37
Are holidays to amber countries allowed?
After Portugal’s sudden fall from grace – it will drop from the UK’s quarantine-free travel green list to amber on 8 June – many British travellers will be wondering whether this means they are no longer allowed to go on holiday there.
The government has expressly advised against all recreational travel abroad to places not on the green list.
The Department for Travel warned Brits against visiting amber and red destinations for “leisure” purposes; meanwhile, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News: “You should not be going on holiday to countries on either the amber or red list”, making the analogy that drivers “wouldn’t drive through amber at the traffic light”.
However, as of 17 May, the UK government no longer stipulates that you need to show evidence of an “essential” reason in order to go abroad (such as for work or buying a house), regardless of whether the destination you’re travelling to is green, amber or red.
Recreational international travel is no longer illegal; guidance is not the same as law, and no penalties or fines can be issued at present for going against the aforementioned government advice.
Read our full travel guide on the rules here.
Helen Coffey4 June 2021 14:21
Canary Islands tourism minister hopes for green listing this summer
The Canary Islands were slated for possible inclusion in the green list yesterday, thanks to falling infection rates.
As we know, no countries made the grade.
According to the Canary Islands’ minister for tourism, industry and commerce, Yaiza Castilla, the Canaries, which include Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and Tenerife, accounted for seven per cent of UK holidays in 2019.
Ms Castilla said she was hopeful that with the islands’ low infection rate, they would be added to the green list this summer.
“We must keep the virus at bay, as we are convinced that as soon as the Canary Islands are included in the United Kingdom’s green list, there will be a strong rebound in travel demand as the demand contained so far will be unleashed and both airlines and tour operators will substantially expand capacity to the archipelago.”
Cathy Adams4 June 2021 13:39
So where can you go on holiday now?
With the removal of Portugal from the green list, there are just two viable options for British holidaymakers – under certain conditions.
Iceland has announced it will welcome back visitors who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
In a bid to boost tourism, the government confirmed that those who’ve had both doses of a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency can enter the country without needing to get tested for coronavirus or undergo quarantine.
“The Icelandic government has announced that all those who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to travel to Iceland without being subject to border measures, such as testing and quarantine,” the government said in a statement on 16 March.
Arrivals from the UK must take a free lateral flow test at the airport, and must not have been in any other country 14 days prior to arriving in Gibraltar.
The territory, which has a population of around 33,000 people, is a popular tourist destination, with beaches, VAT-free shopping and one of Europe’s most impressive landmarks, The Rock.
British tourists are allowed in with very few strings attached – click here to see our full guide to the rules.
Cathy Adams4 June 2021 13:26
Flights from Portugal to UK spiking after amber downgrade
Flights are selling for more than £540 per person from Portugal to the UK as holidaymakers face a scramble home before the amber list deadline.
Following the amber list downgrades, ticket prices for flights to the UK before the deadline spiked, with some flights completely sold out.
Research by The Independent shows that an outbound fare from Faro, in the popular Algarve, to London City airport on British Airways, touching down at 2.15pm on Monday, is £545. The same flight on Tuesday, which lands after the deadline, is £120.
Elsewhere, Portugal’s national carrier TAP is charging £345 for a Lisbon to Manchester flight on Monday.
Meanwhile, all Ryanair flights from Faro to London Stansted on Sunday and Monday have sold out. There are a handful of seats left on Saturday 5 June, and tickets are changing hands for upwards of £185 each.
Read the full report here.
Cathy Adams4 June 2021 13:07
Families in Portugal race to find tests to fly home ahead of deadline
Families currently holidaying in Portugal are racing to find Covid tests to fly home to the UK ahead of the 8 June deadline, when the country turns from green to amber, triggering a mandatory 10-day quarantine for all arrivals.
Simon Smith, who is currently in Portugal, said his family has been desperately trying to find Covid tests to get a return flight to the UK on Saturday morning.
The property developer from Stamford, Lincolnshire, who owns a villa in the Lagos area, said he has visited five medical centres and the main hospital to try and get his family tested.
He told the PA news agency he was turned away from one centre after it ran out of testing kits.
”There has just been no thought into it at all,” he said. “I thought with the whole idea of the green list was that they were going to monitor it and give people plenty of time and notice to get flights and sort out problems with testing.”
Mr Smith said the change was a “real kick in the teeth”.
The family has been told the airport has a small amount of Covid tests available, so plan on turning up to their flight five hours early in the hopes of getting one.
“If we can’t get that, we can’t fly,” he said.
Helen Coffey4 June 2021 12:47
No change to Foreign Office advice on Portugal
The Foreign Office (FCDO) advice on travelling to Portugal appears to remain unchanged, despite the government’s announcement yesterday that the country would be downgraded from its quarantine-free green list to amber.
The FCDO currently has a blanket advisory against non-essential international travel which some destinations, including most of the green list, are exempt from.
Following the Department for Transport’s first review of its travel traffic light system, Portugal, the only mainstream holiday destination on the slender green list, will turn amber from 4am on 8 June, triggering a 10-day quarantine for all arrivals.
But the FCDO advisory has yet to change. This could make it a struggle for holidaymakers who now wish to cancel trips to Portugal to get a refund, according to Which? travel editor Rory Boland.
He said: “No update to the FCDO advice on Portugal. Completing a thoroughly confusing picture from government.
“This makes it almost impossible to get a refund for a Portugal trip, with some people likely to face the choice of paying more to reschedule or writing off the holiday.”
Helen Coffey4 June 2021 12:35
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Helen Coffey4 June 2021 12:23
Portuguese scientist accuses UK government of ‘creating storm in a teacup’
A Portuguese scientist has accused the British government of creating a “storm in a teacup” by using the excuse of the Nepalese variant of the virus to knock the country off the UK’s green travel list.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps cited the variant, a further mutation of the Indian variant, as one of the reasons Portugal was being downgraded to amber, along with its higher Covid infection rate.
Joao Paulo Gomes, a scientific investigator at the Dr Ricardo Jorge Institute in Lisbon, said he found the British government’s decision to downgrade Portugal “very strange”.
Confirming just 12 cases of the variant had been identified in Portugal, he said: “I think this is all a storm in a tea cup.
“We regard this UK decision as very strange because the Indian variant here doesn’t even reach five per cent and is at 4.8 per cent and so is a very different one to the situation the UK is experiencing.”
Additional reporting by Natalia Penza
Helen Coffey4 June 2021 12:08
Employers risk discrimination claims without post-holiday quarantine policy
Employers risk discrimination claims without a post-holiday quarantine policy in place, a lawyer has said.
The abrupt removal of Portugal from the UK’s travel green list will put many holidaymakers and their employers in a difficult position. Those returning after 4am on 8 June will be forced to self-isolate for 10 days, where previously they expected to be quarantine-free.
Suzanne Staunton, Employment Partner at JMW Solicitors, says: “Employers should make it crystal clear to their employees that they must quarantine, no matter what the impact will be on the business. Employees working from home can simply continue to work from home during their 10-day quarantine. Those employers that usually require their employees to attend their place of work have a number of options regarding how to treat the quarantine period: they can ask their employees to take paid holiday; take another form of paid leave; or take that time off as unpaid leave.
“Going forward, in light of what has happened with Portugal, employers may wish to have a policy which deals specifically with the way that quarantine time will be treated.”
She added that, when an employee returns, it is important for employers to have an “honest and open dialogue concerning the way that quarantine time will be treated”, and to take individual circumstances into account which “might otherwise result in claims for discrimination if not handled appropriately”.
Helen Coffey4 June 2021 11:55