In the last few weeks, we have seen Portugal given the green light, then changed to amber, other Covid-19 safe countries kept on the amber list when in all honesty, they should never be there. There is disbelief about the continued absence of Malta and some Mediterranean islands, from the green list, despite their successful vaccination programmes and low case rates.
Nobody can sensibly criticise the Boris led government (except Dominic Cummings) for their roll out of vaccines in the UK, it was World beating, much to the disgust of the EU. However, firm decisions do need to be made. Of course, if it’s anything to do with football, then all the rules go out of the window. In these cases, Boris Johnson says "sensible accommodations" can be made. There is nothing sensible about it, one rule for everyone, if only Boris can decide what the one rule is.
A few days ago, the UK media were full of reports that the UK would admit visitors from the USA as long as they had both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. Then it changed to just testing negative. Then it was ‘leaked’, double-jabbed tourists could be allowed to travel to amber list countries without quarantining under new government plans. According to The Telegraph, always very well informed of what the tory party are doing (in secret of course, ‘informed sources’), “The change would effectively turn amber countries green for the vaccinated, opening up the possibility of quarantine-free travel to most major holiday destinations in Europe and the US”. The UK ‘is working’ on a vaccine passport.
The Portuguese Government are working faster in preparation for what most of the EU have decided is the way forward, prove you have had both of your vaccinations and you can travel. By last Friday you could already download a digital certificate from the SNS24 portal proving you have had both doses of the vaccine. The so-called vaccine passport.
Evidence for travellers who have received both vaccination doses to avoid isolation was “still developing”, but heading in the right direction, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told the BBC last week.
Jesse Norman, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, confirmed last week that the Government was looking at opening up summer holidays abroad to fully vaccinated Britons. He also confirmed concerns that EU nations are stealing a march on the UK, he said: "We don't want to be left behind by other countries that are taking a two-jab approach if it can be done safely."
According to The Times on Monday, fewer than one in 200 travellers arriving from countries on the government's amber list are testing positive for Covid-19. Matt Hancock confirmed that none of the few who tested positive brought back any variants.
We are told that this Thursday the government will review the countries on the green, amber and red lights. At the same time Boris said on Monday, that this year will be "a difficult year for travel"
Confused? You will be
“Public health paranoia will have trumped common sense”
Henry Smith, the Tory chairman of the all-party Future of Aviation group, told the press, “Britain would be an "outlier" (a person or thing differing from all other members of a particular group or set) if it did not adopt the same approach to vaccinated travellers as most other countries. At least 33 countries, including Germany, France, Spain and Greece, exempt vaccinated passengers from quarantine”.
"If we don't do it, we will be at a significant disadvantage to our international competitors. Public health paranoia will have trumped common sense if we don't go down that route," Mr Smith said.
Meanwhile British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair have joined the court action over the traffic lights system. Launched by Stansted Airport, Manchester airport and East Midlands, they have called for a judicial review over the system’s “lack of transparency”.
Court papers officially filed on 17 June, argue the government’s reasons for their decisions on who gets the status of green, amber or red are “undisclosed and the decision-making process lacks transparency in a fundamental way”. They are asking a judge to rule on whether the UK government’s decision to amend the traffic light list was against the law. The court papers name the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, and the health secretary, Matt Hancock, as defendants. The aim is to increase pressure on reopening many more countries to international travel over the next few weeks.
There are many figures regarding the value to the UK of the airline industry, but most research suggest that it is worth over 50 billion to the UK government and employs over 500,000 people. The airline and travel industry have a powerful voice and can only be ignored for a short time.
In the meantime, the Portuguese tourist authorities are doing everything possible to make visitors from other countries welcome, very sensible. But never underestimate the UK tourists, they are they have a love of Portugal that has endured for over 50 years. While other markets come and go, the British just keep coming back year after year.
Why? At the end of the 80’s we commissioned two surveys by the world-famous Gallup Poll organisation, which were held at our Algarve in London Exhibition on Park Lane.
One of the many questions asked was what was the attraction of Portugal?
No, it wasn’t sun, the beaches or golf, number one, both years, was always ‘The Portuguese people’. UK visitors love the warm genuine welcome they get in Portugal, everything else is a bonus. It’s a friendship that’s not going to stop soon. Not even Boris can stop it!
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.