Holidays on the ” could be back on the cards this summer as the UK prepares to remove Portugal from the ‘red list’.
An announcement on the move could come as soon as today after the country reported a sharp fall in the number of cases and deaths.
Portugal was initially added to the list with 32 other countries because of its links to Brazil, where a worrying Covid-19 variant was found, and remains the only European nation deemed to be high risk.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected to say today whether the red status will be removed. It would also be the first change to the UK’s travel list in weeks.
It is not clear if the Portuguese islands of Madeira and the Azores would also be included, or on what date the rules would be lifted.
Under the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown, May 17 is the earliest date that people in England may be legally allowed to go on foreign holidays.
Currently anyone who travels from Portugal has to spend time at a quarantine hotel at a cost of £1,750.
The system, which was put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus, has been widely slated for not applying to all arrivals into the UK.
There are fears that more dangerous new strains could arrive in the UK from nations that do not have good detection systems – but the Government has insisted that a blanket ban on everyone entering the country by plane is not necessary.
The remaining countries on the list, available in full here, are mostly in Latin America and Africa, though the UAE is also included.
Last year, the UK introduced a ‘travel corridor’ system which meant arrivals from certain countries had to quarantine, while others did not.
But the changing case rates worldwide meant that the countries included on the list changed weekly, ruining travel plans for many and forcing some to unexpectedly quarantine if they did not get back to the UK before a 4am deadline.
Now all arrivals are required to quarantine at home – though there are concerns about how many people are doing so – while those arriving from red list countries must quarantine in hotels at their own expense.
However, the plan for Portugal could spark fears among travellers of a similarly fluid system to last year, in which destinations’ red list status regularly changes. That could mean holiday makers are forced to scramble for the borders to avoid bills totalling thousands and an unscheduled stay in a hotel upon their return.
A Department for Transport spokesperson declined to confirm if Portugal would be removed from the list.
They told Metro.co.uk: ‘Decisions to introduce or remove countries from the red list are in direct response to the latest scientific and medical data showing an increased risk to UK public health and community transmission. ‘As with all our coronavirus measures, we keep the red list under constant review and our priority remains to protect the health of the UK public.’ A petition to have Portugal taken off the red list has attracted 25,000 signatures.