Speaking upon arrival at the European Council in Brussels, where the EU Heads of State and Government will once again discuss coordination in the management of the pandemic, namely in terms of free movement in light of the new variants, António Costa said that he had not takent he comments from Angela Merkel as criticism.

“We have always worked in coordination with the decisions that the European Union has been taking regarding flights from third countries and regarding free movement within each of the member states. We will continue to do this. Merkel is absolutely right because there are no internal borders in the EU, so we need a coordinated action on the border. In Portugal we have been doing this. I believe there is a wrong understanding about what we have adopted in regard to the British, since we have adopted the general guidelines of the EU, that is to impose quarantine on countries above a certain number of cases, which the British were not, and on the other hand the requirement for mandatory testing, which has been a requirement for the British as well.

“I think that Angela Merkel didn't criticise. Many people have been thinking about the origin of this variant. In fact, the European Center for Disease Control published a report indicating that what is currently happening in the UK, will spread to Europe. The forecast is that the delta variant will be the predominant variant in Europe from now and in the coming weeks and in August it will be 90 percent.”

He added: “There is a new phenomenon here that has happened since the beginning of the year. Last year the virus came from east to west (we were one of the last countries to be hit by the pandemic). Since the beginning of this year, as we know, the opposite phenomenon has started to happen. The UK has been the first country where there was significant growth and then between Ireland and Portugal we have been the countries to next be affected. Now it's not so much the case of Ireland that keeps a total lockdown, which is not our case, we have been reopening the economy for some time now, so we were the second to be hit.

“Many people in Portugal have discussed the matrix that we adopt, I have insisted on explaining that the matrix that we adopt is the matrix that we adopt from the European Center for Disease Control, so it is absolutely useless to change our matrix because the European Center for disease control has its matrix fixed and it is according to this matrix that the European countries set the rules.

Regarding the possibility of Portugal 'closing the borders' to the British, or imposing quarantines on those traveling from the United Kingdom, the prime minister insisted that Portugal will do what is agreed in the Council, as it has always done as the United Kingdom “should not have any exceptional treatment”.