U.K. Restores Quarantines for Travelers From Portugal
British transport authorities cited rising cases in Portugal, and concern over virus variants, complicating plans for Britons hoping for a summer getaway.
Travelers returning to the U.K. from Portugal must quarantine starting Tuesday, officials say.
Tourists at the Santa Luzia Viewpoint in Lisbon last week. On Thursday, Portugal was removed from Britain’s list of countries that do not require a quarantine upon return.Credit…Ana Brigida for The New York Times
June 3, 2021, 3:53 p.m. ET
Travelers returning to Britain from Portugal or its island territories of Madeira and the Azores will no longer be able to avoid quarantining as of Tuesday, British officials announced on Thursday, complicating the plans of Britons hoping for easy getaways to the country this summer.
In mid-May, Britain had put Portugal and 12 other countries and territories with low coronavirus caseloads on a “green list,” allowing British visitors to avoid a quarantine period on their return home from those locations.
Britons fatigued by a miserable winter and a four-month national lockdown began flocking to Portugal, because most of the other green-listed places were either not accepting tourists or were not already favored destinations for British travelers. The process still involved multiple forms and P.C.R. virus tests, whose costs could total hundreds of dollars.
The decision to move the country off the green list, was a “safety first approach” Grant Shapps, Britain’s transport secretary, told the BBC on Thursday.
Portugal had remained on Britain’s green list even as the rate of positive coronavirus cases there rose 37 percent over the past two weeks, and British fans poured into the city of Porto to see two of England’s top soccer teams, Chelsea and Manchester United, face off in the Champions League final last Saturday. (Chelsea won.)
Portugal has seen the spread of the virus variant first identified in India, now known as Delta, Mr. Shapps said in a public statement released on Thursday. Officials also did not add any new countries to the green list.
Spain was also dealt a blow by the decision, particularly for its two tourism-dependent archipelagos, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, which had seen improvement in their virus numbers. British travelers are the largest international contingent of visitors to Spain, accounting for 18 million of the almost 84 million foreigners who came to Spain in 2019, before the pandemic.
The abrupt announcement caused disappointment for British visitors who had booked trips to the country already or hoped that wider travel in Europe was on the rebound. It also caused further dismay for the travel industry, which has been hard-hit economically by the pandemic.
The decision not to add any other countries to the green list “is a total disaster for the already fragile travel industry and is likely to lead to further airline failures and many more job losses,” Brian Strutton, acting general secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association, said in a statement. “Our airlines need this summer season if they are to survive.”
In Portugal, vendors had been excited to welcome back tourists, typically a major financial boon for the country. But some people in the country had grumbled about foreign visitors not following local restrictions, which include mask-wearing outdoors and a 10:30 p.m. curfew. The move by British officials comes as cases remain generally low in Britain, though officials have been working to contain surges of the Delta variant.
Raphael Minder contributed reporting.