UK may include Portugal in quarantine exemptions in coming days

in News · 23-07-2020 16:00:00 · 6 Comments

Portugal may be included in the list of countries exempt from quarantine on arrival in the United Kingdom in the next few days, within the scope of the reassessment that the British Government indicated it would do at the end of this month, the British press said.

The Times newspaper reports on 23 July that London is going to yield to the “powerful pressure” of the Portuguese Government, which considered the exclusion, in early July, of Portugal from the group of safe destinations as “absurd” and “wrong” and suggested an impact on bilateral relations.

It was the same British newspaper that at the time first advanced Portugal's potential absence from the list of “travel corridors” due to the outbreaks of covid-19 cases in the Lisbon region at the end of June.

According to The Times, the list of 75 countries and territories will not be changed profoundly, but "it is expected that trips without quarantine to Portugal are allowed".

The Daily Telegraph also admits the lifting of restrictions to Portugal, possibly through regional “corridors”, adding that Madeira, Azores and Algarve, the most popular destinations of the approximately two million British tourists annually, have a very small number of cases compared to Lisbon, where more than half of the cases in the country are active.

"Regional air bridges are an option for countries with localised outbreaks," a transport ministry source told the newspaper on 22 July, referring to difficulties with the US, which could remain quarantined for many months if the quarantine applies at a national level.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps had indicated that a reassessment would be made by 27 July, invoking the use of "scientific and health criteria" determined by the Common Biosafety Centre and England's general health directorate, with official data and models from mathematicians at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The categorisation of countries, he specified, "was supported by an estimate of the proportion of the currently infectious population in each country, virus incidence rates, incidence and death trends, transmission status and international information on epidemics, as well as information on the capacity of tests of a country and an assessment of the quality of the available data”.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos Silva, argued at the time that the United Kingdom had "seven times more cases registered than Portugal and 28 times more deaths due to covid-19", to which he added: "The absurdity of this decision seems evident to me”.

Portugal's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Manuel Lobo Antunes, also questioned days later, in an article for the Daily Telegraph, the "scientific arguments that support the British government's decision", which, he said, "lack detail".

“Leaving Portugal off the list of trips exempt from quarantine is difficult to understand”, he lamented, stressing the “huge” economic impact of the decision, which can be “prolonged if [the decision] is not changed in the next reevaluation”.

Last week, Secretary of State for Tourism, Rita Marques, expressed little confidence in Portugal's admission to the list of travel corridors with the United Kingdom due to the criteria used.

Marques argued that the criterion "could be improved", sticking to the criterion used by the European Union to open borders and that, in addition to infection rates, it counted the number of deaths and occupation in intensive care, among other criteria.

However, the Minister of Health, Marta Temido, highlighted earlier this week the “encouraging sign” of a decrease in the incidence rate of covid-19 in Portugal to 19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days, one of the most common indicators used in comparison between countries.

The incidence rate in the previous two weeks was 43.2 per 100,000 inhabitants, a factor that weighed down restrictions on travellers from Portugal to other countries, such as Austria, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Finland or Belgium.

The UK will have determined as a condition to lift the quarantine a rate of 20 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

As of 22 July, according to official data, the UK recorded 45,501 deaths in more than 296,000 cases, while Portugal accounted for 1,702 deaths associated with covid-19 in 49,150 confirmed cases of infection.

The process of introducing quarantine for 14 days to all people arriving from abroad to the UK on 8 June was marked by confusion and criticism from the tourism and air transport sector, academics and politicians, including from the Conservative party itself.

Imposed to reduce the risk of a second wave of the covid-19 pandemic, the measure was questioned due to the economic impact by hundreds of British companies in a letter to Interior Minister Priti Patel.

Ryanair carrier president Michael O’Leary considered the restrictions “idiotic” and “ridiculously ineffective” and, along with competitors British Airways and easyJet, launched a lawsuit to halt the measure.

At the end of June, when the first reevaluation was scheduled, the government indicated that it would open a series of “travel corridors” with countries considered to be of low risk, but the list coded according to the colours of the traffic lights never materialised and was only announced several days later.

On the day of the announcement, on 3 July, 59 countries and 14 other territories were appointed, to which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MNE) failed to advise against non-essential travel, an important issue because travel in such cases invalidates the respective travel insurance, which prevents tour operators from including those destinations in their packages.

The fact that the British MNE continued to advise against travel to mainland Portugal, but failed to advise against the autonomous regions of the Azores and Madeira created confusion, leading the respective leaders to believe that they would be exempt from quarantine.

London's justification was that the risk of infection was much less in the archipelagos, but that it could not lift the restriction for only part of the country due to the freedom of movement between the islands and mainland Portugal.

The prime ministers of Scotland and Wales considered the corridor process "chaotic", claiming a lack of coherence and national coordination, and only joined later, with the difference that Scotland also excluded Spain and Serbia.

An eventual decision by the British government to include Portugal in the list of corridors applies only to England, with the remaining nations (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) having the option of accepting the change or not.

If you disagree with the decision of the UK Government to continue to leave Portugal off the air bridge list, then click here to find details on how to sign a petition and lobby UK ministers.

WHO and Worldometer Data for each country for confirmed cases per week.

Portugal

Week ending 29/6/20 - 2380 cases

Week ending 6//7/20 - 2652 cases

Week ending 13/7/20 - 2169 cases

Week ending 20/7/20 - 760 cases

On 760 cases that is roughly 7.6 per 100,000 infection rate.

The Algarve is roughly 3 per 100,000 now.

Spain

Week ending 29/6/20 - 2589 cases

Week ending 6//7/20 - 4590 cases

Week ending 13/7/20 - 9016 cases

Week ending 20/7/20 - 8865 cases

On 8865 cases that is roughly 18.7 per 100,000 infection rate.

England

The ONS last figures for England is estimated at 2,800 new cases per day or 19,600 per week for the week ending 20/7/20 and also states that the current infection rate is 5.2 per 100,000.

As such the Algarve is less than England and the whole of Portugal is just above England with the most telling factor being that Spain is on and Portugal off even though Spain has a rising infection rate over the last three weeks and Portugal has declined.

As such Portugal is now 7.6 per 100,000 and Spain is 18.7 per 100,000 infection rate.


Comments:

I think this decision is based more on a political agenda than on Contamination Rate, as Boris is claiming to be. The fact that, until not very long ago Spain and Italy who had way more cases than Portugal was exempt of quarantining proves my point.

I just hope that the two countries resolve their political issues soon and UK do the right thing and include Portugal in the exemption list, specially now that Spain is out.

By Jessica from UK on 28-07-2020 04:42

I am currently sitting in the Algarve on a couple of weeks break and must say any decision by the English government to not have Portugal on a quarantine free list is unbelievable! It feels a million times safer than the U.K. with the everyday man on the street here taking necessary precautions! The restaurants are exemplary in how they are preparing for the safety of customers. And at the weekly market in Quarteira, even though outside, the GNR forced the use of face masks- not the case in the U.K. the police are too busy to do this! The towns of Vilamoura, Albufeira and the heavily focused tourist towns will be very different after this and it is so sad to see so many empty restaurants that deserve better. The British and Irish tourists are being replaced by the French in particular and this will follow over the next few years and it is time that the Algarve now focuses on non British tourists! This is not what I want but is necessary for the prosperity of business here for the years ahead!
Boris needs to also remember he has Brexit agreements and other agreements to make with EU countries over the next few years and it’s better to have your oldest friends with you rather than now they believe they are fighting against you. He thought the Irish would green light travel from the U.K. which they haven’t so he has some serious diplomacy work to be done in order to have friends as this plays out and Portugal has continuously held out the hand of friendship- but for how long more with Prime Minister Costa do this?

By Dave from Algarve on 24-07-2020 09:08

Quase que parece racismo...
Fico triste porque esta decisão não bate certo...
Ainda se houvesse rigor nesses passos aqui em Inglaterra...mas não se passa nada...

By Portuguesa from UK on 24-07-2020 07:05

OK

By Md Moinul Haque from Lisbon on 24-07-2020 01:03

A contagious virus and travelling masses - sounds like a dangerous mix. Look what is happening in Spain. Please bear in mind that we have very clear rules in Portugal for social distancing, face masks, hand sanitizing and gatherings. Please learn, respect and follow them.

By Annie from Algarve on 23-07-2020 07:18

I hope the travel corridor is opened asap. It was ridiculous that Portugal was excluded from the original list for people travelling from the UK, particularly given the strong links between the two countries. Scotland take note!

By Ian McCully from UK on 23-07-2020 05:11
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