Could Portugal go back on the green list?

Holidaymakers have been forced to scramble for last-minute flights home after Portugal was downgraded to the amber list in the latest traffic light reshuffle on 3 June.

From 4am on 7 June, all arrivals from the Atlantic nation, initially the only mainstream holiday nation on the UK’s green list, will be required to self-isolate for 10 days and take two PCR tests.

The removal of Portugal leaves just 11 territories on the “safe” list, which carry a lower risk of Covid reimportation.

The downgrade has drawn fury from the travel industry and holidaymakers alike, and dismayed an industry that only tentatively restarted on 17 May.

But could Portugal go back onto the green list? Here is everything you need to know.

What is on the green list?

A mere 12 destinations made it onto the first green list in early May, many of which do not currently let in British travellers or are impossible to reach directly, thereby necessitating travel through an amber country and triggering quarantine upon return to the UK.

On 3 June, Portugal was removed from the green list, with changes coming into effect at 4am on 8 June.

There are now 11 nations on the green list.

Green list in full

  • Israel
  • Gibraltar
  • Iceland
  • Faroe Islands
  • Brunei
  • Falkland Islands
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

For information about the countries on the amber list, click here.

For information about the countries on the red list, click here.

Those returning to the UK from the green list need not quarantine, but still have to present a negative lateral flow test before departure and a post-arrival PCR test within two days of entering the UK.

When and why did Portugal come off?

Portugal was removed at the traffic light reshuffle on 3 June. Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the presence of the Delta variant in the country as well as a higher positivity rate in the country was behind the move.

Mr Shapps said: “I want to be straight with people, it’s actually a difficult decision to make, but in the end we’ve seen two things really which caused concern.

“One is the positivity rate has nearly doubled since the last review in Portugal and the other 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 vaccine-defeating mutation and simply don’t want to take the risk as we come up to 21 June and the review of the fourth stage of the unlock.”

What has Portugal said?

The Portuguese tourist board strongly refutes the downgrade.

“We are extremely disappointed to hear that the UK government has made the decision to remove Portugal from the green list,” said Luis Araújo, president of Turismo de Portugal.

“We fully maintain and stress unwavering confidence in the safety of the nation and thank the support of all our partners and friends in the UK, especially our trading partners that have been essential in quickly reinstating flight capacity into Portugal.

“Our country is open and prepared to welcome any tourist and we have taken all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our visitors and residents.”

Madeira, a Portuguese-owned group of islands in the Atlantic, said they “deserve to stay” on the green list and “should not be categorised with the rest of mainland Europe, being 1077km away and having a unique set of circumstances”.

Eduardo Jesus, regional secretary for tourism and culture said of the announcement: “The UK government’s decision is unfair, inadequate, and unfounded. An urgent review is required for Madeira for positive discrimination.

“We are utilising all channels to reinforce this message with the decision-makers in the UK, who will find it hard to encounter an alternative European tourist destination with the same level of security as Madeira and Porto Santo.”

Could Portugal go back on the green list?

Not any time soon. The next traffic light reshuffle is expected around 24 June, taking the government’s “three week” timetable into account, with changes due to come into force a week later.

After the government’s well-publicised U-turn on Portugal, it’s likely to stay amber until after the next review, which could be around the middle of July.

What are the entry requirements for Portugal?

There is nothing to stop holidaymakers from travelling to Portugal, despite its place on the amber list. Confusingly, the UK’s Foreign Office hasn’t advised against all travel there (the FCDO’s list and the traffic light lists don’t always match up) so holidays and flights are continuing. Travel is merely discouraged, but not illegal.

Visitors must present a negative Covid PCR test taken within 72 hours of the departure of the flight to enter Portugal. They will not need to quarantine unless they test positive for Covid-19.

For entry to Madeira, tourists who have been double vaccinated aren’t required to present a negative PCR test. The NHS app should suffice as proof.

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