Portugal removed from ‘green list’ of UK holiday destinations
Portugal has been taken off the UK’s ‘green list’ of foreign holiday destinations and no new countries will be added this week, raising fears a second lost summer for the travel industry.
The news brought down airline shares, sparked outrage from tourism bosses and prompted warnings of a worsening aviation crisis.
In the first changes to the system of “traffic lights” for travel abroad since its unveiling last month, Portugal will be from next Tuesday at 4 am the list of countries whose people do do not need to self-quarantine upon their return.
It will move to the ‘amber list’, which means returning passengers must self-isolate for 10 days upon their return and pass two expensive coronavirus polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests during that time.
The list should be updated in three weeks.
Grant Shapps, secretary of transport, highlighted concerns about the spread of Covid-19 variants in Portugal, in particular a ‘kind of Nepalese mutation’ of the Delta variant, first identified in India.
“We just don’t know the potential for this to be a mutation against the vaccine,” he told the BBC.
Jeff Barrett, director of the Covid-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said an additional mutation, K417N, has been detected in some Delta cases.
The same mutation is also present in the beta variant from South Africa, he added, “and it is believed to be part of the reason why this variant is less well neutralized by vaccines. Because of this possibility, and because Delta appears to be more transmissible than Beta, scientists are watching her closely. ”
“This Delta + K417N has been seen in many countries including the UK, Portugal, US and India,” Barrett said. It has only been observed once in Nepal and 14 times in Japan, including 13 samples from the airport quarantine of travelers from Nepal.
Public Health England said its experts believe Delta has overtaken Alpha, initially identified in Kent as the dominant variant of Sars-Cov-2 in the UK.
The decision to take Portugal off the green list was also influenced in part by the Johnson government’s rush to lift all lockdown restrictions on June 21. the manager said.
More than 1,800 flights are expected to leave the UK to Portugal in June, according to data provider Cirium, after airlines expanded services to cope with additional demand from holidaymakers.
John Holland-Kaye, managing director of Heathrow Airport, said the decision “almost guaranteed another was lost”, while Karen Dee, director of the Airport Operators Association, said the summer “s ‘worse announcement than last summer, which was the worst in aviation history’.
Shares of British Airways owner International Airlines Group and easyJet both fell 5%, while travel company Tui fell 4.5%.
“I have sympathy for the government on a lot of things, but this is the last straw,” said Sonia Davies, managing director of luxury travel agent Scott Dunn. “Talking about the data but then making decisions that the data doesn’t support, and trying to make the public believe that the variants only appear in foreign countries is downright insulting.”
Augusto Santos Silva, the Portuguese Foreign Minister, said on Twitter that he could not see the logic of the British decision.
Raul Martins, head of the Portuguese Hotel Association, told local media the decision was “a blow”, and said holiday bookings were already “down dramatically”.
Only 11 countries or territories are now on the green list. Egypt, Costa Rica and Sri Lanka are among the seven countries to be added to the red list, which means arriving passengers are subject to a mandatory quarantine at the hotel for 10 days.
The Department of Transport’s traffic light system applies to people from England, but the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish governments have used the same list of countries in their travel advice.
The UK reports linking a new variant to Nepal, infuriated Nepalese health officials. “We don’t know what the ‘Nepalese variant’ is because we haven’t detected any Nepalese variant of the coronavirus,” Dr Krishna Prasad Paudel, spokesperson for the country’s health ministry, told the Kathmandu Post. .
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