Travellers returning to the UK from Portugal will no longer be required to go into 14-day quarantine.
The British government has bowed to pressure and added Portugal to the list of countries exempt from the controversial self-isolation rule. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has also decided to exclude Portugal from its advice recommending against all non-essential international travel.
The new status for Portugal – “based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks” – will officially come into effect at 4am on Saturday 22 August. Travellers will still be required to provide their journey and contact details before returning to the UK.
Portuguese tourism and government authorities were outraged in July when the UK left Portugal off its list of countries covered by the so-called “air corridors”.
Since then, they have mounted a strong campaign in the media – and in diplomatic circles – to highlight the country’s widely praised response to the coronavirus pandemic and the lower levels of contagion – in the Algarve, in particular – compared with other popular tourist destinations for UK tourists.
President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has repeatedly asserted that Portuguese authorities have been exemplary in tackling COVID-19 and people have been meticulously adhering to preventative measures.
During a visit to the Algarve last weekend, the 71-year-old Rebelo de Sousa was famously captured on video helping to rescue two women who had come into difficulty when their kayak capsized off an Algarve beach.
At the start of summer, the president promised to visit every borough in the region to “stimulate confidence” – both for those hoping for a prompt improvement in business and for potential tourists contemplating whether or not it was safe to travel to southern Portugal for a holiday.
The Algarve Tourism Association (ATA) also announced plans this month to launch an advertising campaign on UK-based entertainment Channel 5 with the aim of pressuring UK authorities to lift the restrictions on travellers arriving in the UK from Portugal.
“We’re strongly committed to reversing the negative effects that have resulted from the British government’s decision,” said ATA president João Fernandes in a press release announcing the initiative, “and this means, among other things, reinforcing and repeating the message to that market that the Algarve is a safe destination and that it’s fully prepared to welcome its tourists again with all the quality and well-being to which they’ve always been accustomed.
“As well as promoting the Algarve’s fame as a safe destination, the exhibition of this video will also have a competition aspect, which will allow spectators to take part in a raffle and win a seven-night stay in the region for two people, in a five-star hotel. This prize will be valid until the end of the summer of 2021.”
Another prominent tourism official entering the fray was Alessandra Priante, European director of the World Tourism Organisation, who (while on holiday in Troia) told the Expresso newspaper, “I have never understood the United Kingdom’s problem with Portugal”. Describing Portugal as “a paradise within the context of the pandemic”, she said, “We’re in a safe country. When the pandemic began, we saw some countries react immediately with measures, and one of them was Portugal, which happily has never had many victims.
“I am here on holiday, in a place with 99 per cent occupation, and what I see is everyone wearing masks, respecting the rules, and staff extremely prepared to comply with all the measures.”
Click here for up-to-date flight details so you can make up for lost time and finally plan a summer holiday to the Algarve.