Absolutely devastated’ Britons in Portugal fume after country is demoted to amber list sparking diplomatic storm and race for families to get home in the next four days or face quarantine and £1,000 of PCR tests
- Brits in Portugal reacted with fury after being told to dash home before Tuesday or face quarantine
- Travellers said the UK move to downgrade Portugal from green to amber was ‘unfair’ and ‘stressful’
- Albufeira-based bar owner Gary Search, 54, said he was ‘absolutely devastated’ by the decision
- Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced relegation after rise in positive tests in Portugal
PUBLISHED: 21:43, 3 June 2021 | UPDATED: 01:01, 4 June 2021
Holidays to Portugal have been thrown into chaos as ministers removed the European country from the travel green list amid concerns over the new Nepal coronavirus variant.
The move triggered a furious diplomatic row, with Portugal’s president accusing UK ministers of ‘health fundamentalism’ and of being ‘obsessed’ with infection rates.
It also sparked a race among thousands of British holidaymakers in Portugal to get back before quarantine-on-return rules kick in on Tuesday, when the country is formally placed on the amber list.
Those booked to go to Portugal in coming weeks were left in limbo over whether to go ahead with their holiday under the tougher quarantine rules or to rebook for later in the summer and hope the country goes green again.
The decision to make Portugal amber was apparently triggered by concerns over the Nepal variant, a mutated version of the Indian strain. But Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Portugal’s president, accused UK ministers of ‘not recognising that we live in a different situation than we lived before vaccination’.
He added: ‘The numbers are going up, but they are not increasing inpatients and ICU numbers and deaths. We can’t keep obsessively looking at it this way, ignoring that with vaccination, reality has changed.’
Albufeira-based bar owner Gary Search, 54, said he was ‘absolutely devastated’ by the decision. He said: ‘One of the bars is 98 per cent British tourists and in the other about 50 per cent of our customers are Brits who are also mostly holidaymakers. We’re absolutely devastated by today’s decision.
‘We’d literally just got off the ground, we’d been scrabbling around all week getting new staff because obviously we couldn’t employ the staff till we got busy.
‘There’s no staff here because of Brexit and Covid so it’s been extremely difficult. We’d just put them all on contracts and then this happens. It’s messed things right up to be honest.’
Pedro Neto, general manager of the luxury Vila Monte Farm House hotel in the Algarve, said the hotel was already receiving cancellations. He added: ‘It’s very difficult news to receive.
‘We are a hotel with a lot of British guests and this is obviously not the news that we were hoping for. People are so happy to be here, the weather is beautiful, everything is working as it should so this is not the news we were expecting.’
Moving Portugal from the green to the amber list means travellers will have to quarantine at home for ten days after visiting, while paying for and taking two Covid tests, on days two and eight. British families of four in Portugal now face having to pay £1,000 to buy PCR tests at £125 each.
Further complications may arise if the Foreign Office changes its stance and advises against visiting Portugal, which would invalidate travel insurance. The move to downgrade Portugal, including Madeira and the Azores, to amber came despite there being just three deaths in the country in the latest 24-hour period.
Its infection rate is similar to the UK’s, with the rolling seven-day average being 53.63 cases per million of the population compared to the UK’s 51.41. Some 45 per cent of its adult population have received at least one dose.
But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the country’s infection rate had almost doubled since it was put on the green list three weeks ago. He added: ‘In the end we’ve seen two things that have caused concern – one thing is that the positivity rate has nearly doubled, since the last review, in Portugal.
‘And the other thing is there’s a sort of Nepal mutation of the so-called Indian variant which has been detected and we just don’t know the potential for that to be a vaccine-defeating mutation.
‘We simply don’t want to take the risk as we come up to June 21 and the review of the fourth stage of the [domestic] unlock.’
British sunseekers in Portugal reacted with fury after being told to dash home before 4am Tuesday or face 10 days of quarantine as the country was downgraded from green to amber. Stock image used of travellers at Faro Airport
Passengers arrive at Faro airport in the Algarve in the south of Portugal, May 17, 2021
Empty sunshades wait for customers at Gale beach in Albufeira, May 18, 2021