The announcement from Grant Shapps last week regarding travel is a start, and with Portugal’s dependence on tourism, especially from the UK, a very welcome one.

Politicians and scientists don’t always agree (but you can easily find one that thinks your way) but banning people from traveling, restricting night life, as well as how many people can be in a bar or restaurant is causing enormous economic damage. It’s also not consistent, did you see how many people were at Wembley, shoulder to shoulder, no masks, no social distancing. The British Grand Prix at Silverstone next week will be full capacity, 140,000 spectators, but you can’t buy a beer at the local bar or only have a limited number of people at the table in the local restaurant.

Of course, it all depends on who you are. According to The Telegraph, “Michael Gove was able to avoid self isolation after being "pinged" by NHS Test & Trace, because Downing Street was selected as one of the organisations to join a Government pilot scheme”.

There are always exceptions, for the select few

“In May, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was contacted by track and trace after he returned from a trip to Portugal to watch the Champions League Final. However, he was able to avoid isolation because he was one of 40,000 people who were included in a Daily Contact Testing Study”.

According to the Mail on Sunday, a Cabinet Office spokesman confirmed that No 10 had signed up to the scheme and as a result Mr Gove was covered under that. Strange that few people knew about this ‘scheme’, obviously it was just for the select few.

Tourism in Portugal is being decimated

The damage being done to the tourism industry in Portugal, from the smallest bar to the largest hotel, is devastating. Perhaps politicians are beginning to realise that Covid is here to stay, it can be controlled by vaccines, but not everybody wants one. The use of masks helps, so does sensible behaviour such as respecting social distancing is all positive, but it’s becoming very evident that you can’t completely stamp out Covid. It’s here to stay, and perhaps for a long time. Flu vaccines helped reduce deaths and hospitalisation, but the flu is still with us.

A lady interviewed by the BBC on her return from the Algarve said she was greatly impressed by the behaviours of the Portuguese people who seemed, by and large, to respect the conditions in place for our protection. She said she was ashamed of the British. I am far from sure that from 19 July 19 that British people will ‘use common sense’, but Boris confirmed on Monday, 12 July, that this is his recommended way forward. Please note he did reserve the right to change his mind in September.

Two jabs and you are good to go

The new plans to allow travel if you have been vaccinated twice will help, but there is still endless political wrangling about what certificate is acceptable. The EU seems to be making quite good progress, but the USA has over 50 different certificates, each state has its own rules. IATA has been trying to implement a common standard for all travellers, but that hasn’t yet succeeded. It’s available to download for your smartphone, but airlines are still only at the stage of testing, and governments have not yet officially accepted the vaccine passport. Only last week there were objections to the Indian manufactured Oxford vaccine. Why? Nobody has an answer to that. Portugal has launched an online digital passport which is compatible with the EU guidelines. If you live in Portugal, it would be wise to get your ‘digital passport’ as you may now be required to show it at certain establishments.

London Heathrow is testing fast-track lanes for fully vaccinated holidaymakers if you are arriving from amber list countries.

Passengers would be able to digitally upload their vaccination certificates in advance of their flight and then be directed to separate lanes at immigration to fast-track them through border controls and prevent queues. If they can make this work, other airports will surely implement the same idea. As long as politicians are not allowed to interfere, it might just work. As far as UK politicians are concerned, don’t hold your breath, Boris and Co clearly have done everything to try and keep the British at home. Only a week ago they were trying to stop the new relaxed two jab plan from coming into effect, but Grant Shapps seems to have achieved bring this forward to 19 July.

Since his announcement, holiday bookings have boomed. Skyscanner reported that searches for flights to holiday destinations went up by 51 percent within one hour. Low cost airline easyJet has added around 16,000 seats on flights between Portugal and the UK in response to the strong demand for travel to the country.

Covid is not going away, learn to live with it

We have to be realistic; the time has come to accept that we have to learn to live with Covid, it’s going to be around for a long time, though hopefully well under control by the vaccines. The vast majority of research says they are at least 90 percent effective. If you haven’t had your jab yet, get it!

Believe the anti vax campaigners if you must, but the BBC published a good assessment ‘What's behind the 'anti-vax' movement?’. It might help you reach an informed decision.


Resident in Portugal for 50 years, publishing and writing about Portugal since 1977. Privileged to have seen, firsthand, Portugal progress from a dictatorship (1974) into a stable democracy. 

Paul Luckman