Leading airlines have started to boost their flight schedules to the Algarve’s Faro Airport after Portugal was named as one of the UK’s “green list” countries subject to eased travel restrictions from 17 May.
People in England will once again be allowed to enjoy foreign holidays in 12 countries and territories, four of which are in Europe: Portugal, Gibraltar, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Other popular destinations for British travellers – Spain, France, Italy and Greece – are on the “amber list”, which means “non-essential” travel from the UK remains banned at least until June when the next three-weekly review is held.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not indicated when they will also ease their travel restrictions, although transport secretary Grant Shapps said all four of the UK’s chief medical officers agreed on the principles behind the traffic light system.
The system entails countries being granted status in one of three categories – green, amber and red – based on their number of COVID-19 cases and the success of vaccine rollouts.
Travellers to green list destinations will still be required to take a private COVID-19 test before returning home to the UK (either lateral flow or PCR), complete a passenger locator form online before leaving their holiday country or territory, and take another test on or before day two of their arrival back in England. Shapps said he hoped the cost of a PCR test would be reduced to under £50 per person.
People travelling to amber list destinations for justified non-leisure reasons must also take the two tests, and self-isolate at home for 10 days – a period that can be reduced under the existing test-to-release scheme with a negative result. Likewise, non-essential travel is prohibited to red list destinations, and legitimate returning travellers are required to go into a 10-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.
Also from 17 May, the NHS app will include a feature that allows users to show they have had two vaccine doses and which will, it is hoped, provide accepted proof of vaccination for UK tourists travelling overseas. It is a different app to the one currently used for contact tracing.
Announcing details of the system, transport minister Shapps said the changes were a “tentative” first step to opening up travel, as there was still “concern about the resurgence of COVID”, and the UK’s “success in combating COVID” was “not yet replicated in many places abroad… We must make sure the countries we reconnect with are safe.”
He said travellers should also be aware that not all green list destinations are currently open to UK tourists. Travel to mainland Portugal (including the Algarve), for example, is only allowed for essential purposes, although the Portuguese government has previously indicated it hopes to welcome UK tourists this month (May).
Warm Algarve Welcome Awaits British Holidaymakers
Responding to the announcement, Algarve Tourism Bureau president João Fernandes reiterated that the region was ready to welcome the return of UK visitors. “We are obviously delighted with the news. It’s a recognition of the remarkable work Portugal has done in reducing levels of COVID to be able to restart the economy safely.”
National minister of internal administration Eduardo Cabrita also highlighted Portugal’s recognition as “a European reference point” in dealing with the pandemic, thanks to “concrete measures” adopted by the government to combat the spread of the virus.
In March, the Portuguese government implemented a four-stage plan for easing COVID-19 restrictions. Most of mainland Portugal entered the fourth stage on 1 May, but there are additional restrictions in some municipalities where the infection rate is higher.
Up-to-date information about travel to Portugal, and coronavirus protocols, is available on the GOV.UK website.
The 12 countries and territories on the green list are:
- Falkland Islands
- Faroe Islands
- New Zealand
- South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands
- St Helena, Tristan de Cunha and Ascension Island
The traffic light list will be reviewed every three weeks by the Joint Biosecurity Centre, a team set up in 2020 to monitor the threat from the COVID-19 virus.
In the meantime, British Airways, EasyJet, Ryanair and Tui – who all operate out of Faro Airport – have said they will be increasing their flights to the Algarve and other parts of Portugal.