London, United kingdom: Portugal will be removed from England’s so-called green travel list allowing quarantine-free travel between the two countries, the UK government said Thursday, in a move slammed by Britain’s tourism sector.
The move could prove highly disruptive to thousands of British holidaymakers after Portugal was the only European nation placed on the green list when it was first unveiled last month.
A popular summer destination for Britons, from Tuesday at 4 am (0300 GMT) Portugal will be on the amber list, which requires travelers to quarantine at home for 10 days on their return and take several Covid-19 tests.
It joins other European Union countries on the list, with no nations added to the green section.
The government advises against travel to amber-listed countries unless for a limited number of exceptional reasons, which does not include holidays.
Meanwhile, seven countries — Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Trinidad & Tobago — will be added to England’s red list from Tuesday, requiring 10 days costly quarantine in a hotel on return.
Shapps said he ordered the change to Portugal’s status because its infection rate had nearly doubled since the last review in mid-May when Britain lifted a ban on non-essential international travel.
Shapps also cited instances of a mutation of the Delta variant, first identified in India and fast becoming the dominant strain in Britain — where cases are on the rise again after weeks of decline.
“We just don’t know the potential for that to be (a) vaccine-defeating mutation and simply don’t want to take the risk as we come up to June 21,” Shapps said.
Britain is set to ease the last of its lockdown measures on that date.
The government is facing calls to delay lifting the remaining measures — which include social distancing, wearing face masks, and a work from home recommendation — as infections rise once again.
But ministers are putting their faith in the country’s successful vaccine drive.
Over half of British adults have now had both doses of the authorized two-shot Covid-19 inoculations, while more than three-quarters have received at least a single dose.
Thursday’s updates to the travel list, which will be reviewed in three weeks, were heavily criticized by airlines, airports, and tour operators.
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren called Portugal’s designation a “shock decision” that “simply isn’t justified by the science”, while Virgin Atlantic boss Shai Weiss branded the government’s approach “overly cautious”.
“We are yet to see clear and transparent guidance on the methodology and data the government is basing these decisions on,” Weiss added.
Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency travel consultancy, called the moves a “terrible decision”.
“They are basically putting at risk tens of thousands of jobs across aviation and the travel sector, and not showing any signs of helping the sector to recover.”
COVER IMAGE VIA NARAZE, PORTUGAL, VIA UNSPLASH