Portuguese authorities are stressing that the country’s coronavirus situation is “evolving positively” as they try to convince the UK to lift its quarantine rule for returning tourists.
In an interview with Bloomberg TV this week, Portugal’s secretary of state for tourism, Rita Marques, said she wasn’t sure when the UK would revise its rule requiring anyone arriving in Britain from Portugal (and other countries including Spain) to self-isolate for two weeks.
In the meantime, however, tourism and health experts were continuing to highlight the fact that key tourist areas in Portugal – especially the Algarve – had been less affected by the pandemic than other popular holiday destinations around Europe.
“We have been in contact with the UK, providing all of the information requested by the British government,” said Marques. “We are not sure when the decision will be revised but we are not going to retaliate.”
Portugal’s tourism sector accounts for about 15 per cent of the country’s economy, and the British represent the main group of visitors. In July, Portuguese foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva called the quarantine rule “absurd,” noting that the UK had 28 times more deaths from COVID-19 than Portugal.
Marques restated the government’s concerns. “We do not believe that the quarantine is the real solution. People should be tested and if that’s not possible they should comply with the rules when they come to Portugal.”
She said things were starting to pick up and Portugal was set to benefit economically from hosting the final rounds of the Champions League football competition in Lisbon in August and the Formula One Grand Prix in the Algarve region in October.
“We believe August and September will be strong months, and in October and December we will see how it goes. The situation is under control.”
Drop in Coronavirus Cases
Last Monday, Portugal reported no coronavirus-related deaths from the previous day for the first time since mid-March, when the country implemented a lockdown – and the lowest number of new infections in nearly three months.
“It has been very difficult in recent times,” said an emotional secretary of state for health Antonio Sales during a press conference reporting the latest figures. “We are very happy this happened. I want to leave this message of hope to the Portuguese but I want to ask them to help us maintain these numbers.”
Portugal’s total confirmed cases rose by 106 from Sunday to Monday – to 51,569 in total – with 62 per cent of new infections reported in and around Lisbon, mostly localised outbreaks on the outskirts. The death toll remained at 1,738.
Health Prevention Distinction for Theme Park
Meanwhile, tourist attractions and establishments in the Algarve remain committed to incorporating strict health and safety regulations, to reassure visitors that the region offers maximum security this summer.
According to the Algarve Tourism Board, Zoomarine Algarve (for example) voluntarily submitted all its areas and procedures to the analysis and evaluation of an external and independent entity (SGS Portugal).
“Having obtained the SGS distinction ‘Disinfection Monitored-Cleaning Checked’, Zoomarine now proudly holds this exclusive QRCode, valid for a period of six months.
“SGS is a world leader in inspection, verification, laboratory testing and training. The analysis of Zoomarine Algarve theme park was carried out by qualified inspectors and in accordance with COVID-19 national and international highest health prevention requirements… All these assessments now ensure the Algarve theme park is officially a place of low risk of spreading viruses.”