‘Absolutely devastated’ Britons in Portugal fume after country is demoted to amber list

Holidays to Portugal have been thrown into chaos as ministers removed the European country from the travel green list amid concerns over the new Nepal coronavirus variant. 

The move triggered a furious diplomatic row, with Portugal’s president accusing UK ministers of ‘health fundamentalism’ and of being ‘obsessed’ with infection rates.

It also sparked a race among thousands of British holidaymakers in Portugal to get back before quarantine-on-return rules kick in on Tuesday, when the country is formally placed on the amber list.

Those booked to go to Portugal in coming weeks were left in limbo over whether to go ahead with their holiday under the tougher quarantine rules or to rebook for later in the summer and hope the country goes green again.

The decision to make Portugal amber was apparently triggered by concerns over the Nepal variant, a mutated version of the Indian strain. But Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Portugal’s president, accused UK ministers of ‘not recognising that we live in a different situation than we lived before vaccination’.

He added: ‘The numbers are going up, but they are not increasing inpatients and ICU numbers and deaths. We can’t keep obsessively looking at it this way, ignoring that with vaccination, reality has changed.’

Albufeira-based bar owner Gary Search, 54, said he was ‘absolutely devastated’ by the decision. He said: ‘One of the bars is 98 per cent British tourists and in the other about 50 per cent of our customers are Brits who are also mostly holidaymakers. We’re absolutely devastated by today’s decision. 

‘We’d literally just got off the ground, we’d been scrabbling around all week getting new staff because obviously we couldn’t employ the staff till we got busy. 

‘There’s no staff here because of Brexit and Covid so it’s been extremely difficult. We’d just put them all on contracts and then this happens. It’s messed things right up to be honest.’

Pedro Neto, general manager of the luxury Vila Monte Farm House hotel in the Algarve, said the hotel was already receiving cancellations. He added: ‘It’s very difficult news to receive. 

‘We are a hotel with a lot of British guests and this is obviously not the news that we were hoping for. People are so happy to be here, the weather is beautiful, everything is working as it should so this is not the news we were expecting.’  

Moving Portugal from the green to the amber list means travellers will have to quarantine at home for ten days after visiting, while paying for and taking two Covid tests, on days two and eight. British families of four in Portugal now face having to pay £1,000 to buy PCR tests at £125 each.

Further complications may arise if the Foreign Office changes its stance and advises against visiting Portugal, which would invalidate travel insurance. The move to downgrade Portugal, including Madeira and the Azores, to amber came despite there being just three deaths in the country in the latest 24-hour period.

Its infection rate is similar to the UK’s, with the rolling seven-day average being 53.63 cases per million of the population compared to the UK’s 51.41. Some 45 per cent of its adult population have received at least one dose.

But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the country’s infection rate had almost doubled since it was put on the green list three weeks ago. He added: ‘In the end we’ve seen two things that have caused concern – one thing is that the positivity rate has nearly doubled, since the last review, in Portugal.

‘And the other thing 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 a vaccine-defeating mutation. 

‘We simply don’t want to take the risk as we come up to June 21 and the review of the fourth stage of the [domestic] unlock.’ 

British sunseekers in Portugal reacted with fury after being told to dash home before 4am Tuesday or face 10 days of quarantine as the country was downgraded from green to amber. Stock image used of travellers at Faro Airport

British sunseekers in Portugal reacted with fury after being told to dash home before 4am Tuesday or face 10 days of quarantine as the country was downgraded from green to amber. Stock image used of travellers at Faro Airport

British sunseekers in Portugal reacted with fury after being told to dash home before 4am Tuesday or face 10 days of quarantine as the country was downgraded from green to amber. Stock image used of travellers at Faro Airport

Passengers arrive at Faro airport in the Algarve in the south of Portugal, May 17, 2021

Passengers arrive at Faro airport in the Algarve in the south of Portugal, May 17, 2021

Passengers arrive at Faro airport in the Algarve in the south of Portugal, May 17, 2021

Empty sunshades wait for customers at Gale beach in Albufeira, May 18, 2021

Empty sunshades wait for customers at Gale beach in Albufeira, May 18, 2021

Empty sunshades wait for customers at Gale beach in Albufeira, May 18, 2021

No countries are being added to the 'green list', dashing hopes that places such as Malta, Jamaica and Grenada could be added to the roster thanks to easing Covid rates

No countries are being added to the 'green list', dashing hopes that places such as Malta, Jamaica and Grenada could be added to the roster thanks to easing Covid rates

No countries are being added to the ‘green list’, dashing hopes that places such as Malta, Jamaica and Grenada could be added to the roster thanks to easing Covid rates

At least 43 cases of the Nepal coronavirus variant have been identified in the UK

At least 43 cases of the Nepal coronavirus variant have been identified in the UK

At least 43 cases of the Nepal coronavirus variant have been identified in the UK

British holidaymakers reveal how they have cut their family holidays to Portugal short in order to avoid quarantine in UK 

Changing rules at will? It feels wrong 

Karen Beddow (pictured with her husband Matthew and daughters Lily, Isobel and Eve) said she felt let down after being forced to cut her family holiday to Portugal short in order to avoid quarantine on return to the UK

Karen Beddow (pictured with her husband Matthew and daughters Lily, Isobel and Eve) said she felt let down after being forced to cut her family holiday to Portugal short in order to avoid quarantine on return to the UK

Karen Beddow (pictured with her husband Matthew and daughters Lily, Isobel and Eve) said she felt let down after being forced to cut her family holiday to Portugal short in order to avoid quarantine on return to the UK

Karen Beddow said she felt let down after being forced to cut her family holiday to Portugal short in order to avoid quarantine on return to the UK.

She had travelled to a villa in the Algarve with her husband Matthew, their three daughters and her parents last month. Mrs Beddow, 43, from the Wirral in Cheshire, said the family was due to fly back to the UK on Tuesday just hours after the new ‘amber list’ restrictions take effect.

Faced with the prospect of additional testing and quarantine, and fearing Portugal was likely to go on the list, she scrambled to rearrange the flights to Sunday before the official announcement was made yesterday.

Although able to change the Easyjet flights for her immediate family for free, her parents faced a sizeable fee to make the changes. 

Mrs Beddow said the family also had to rearrange pre-booked Covid tests to be taken on their return to the UK in line with Government rules.

She said: ‘We cut our holiday short by two days which I actually feel really annoyed about. Not because of us but because my parents decided to change their flights as well.

‘I feel really let down because the whole thing about this green list was to give people certainty. We were told there would be three weeks’ notice.

‘Obviously, what they actually mean is three weeks’ notice of countries coming on the list, not coming off. I certainly felt that if we went away we could have two weeks and have a window. If they are going to change flights at will that just feels wrong.

‘It’s all very stressful having to fix this as well. We had an afternoon of faffing and sorting out.’

Mrs Beddow, a travel blogger, and her husband, a 47-year-old property developer, spent £665 on travel tests for the couple and their three daughters.

She said that she felt ‘lucky to have made it to Portugal at all’.

I had to cancel my last trip too

Having cancelled a family holiday to Portugal last year, Laura Wolfe faces more disappointment

Having cancelled a family holiday to Portugal last year, Laura Wolfe faces more disappointment

Having cancelled a family holiday to Portugal last year, Laura Wolfe faces more disappointment

Having cancelled a family holiday to Portugal last year, Laura Wolfe faces more disappointment.

Her two-week trip to the Algarve with her partner Daniel and sons, aged ten and 16, is now in doubt.

Miss Wolfe, pictured, said the Government’s decision to change the travel status of the country was ‘a complete fiasco’. She said: ‘Part of us is thinking we might just go. We have saved up and are in a position to do it. And we just love it there.

‘But the issue is with the rules, which seem to be changing all of the time, the quarantine and the costs of the testing for four of us.

‘If we do say ‘sod it’ and go, what then happens if the country is placed on the red list?

‘The trip isn’t for another eight weeks so things could change several times before then.’

Although the £6,000 holiday is refundable, the events and marketing worker, from Manchester, said the possibility of cancelling has provoked a lot of anxiety.

Miss Wolfe has had both Covid jabs and her partner is about to get his second. ‘I thought this was part of why we were doing it,’ she said.

‘I know there are a lot of unknowns but if I am double-vaccinated and test negative, how can it not be OK for me to go away?’

 

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Mr Search, who is originally from Southend-on-Sea, runs his two bars with long-term partner Michelle Mundy, 51. 

‘We had our finger on the pulse and were more or less aware of what was going on but we really didn’t think it would happen,’ he said.

‘Portugal is just slightly over the numbers and there’s nothing in the Algarve at all. It’s all up in Lisbon. For everyone in the Algarve, not just us but also the tourists, it’s a complete nightmare.

‘I think the problem for people even if they try to scrabble around for flights back home before the new rules kick in and they have to quarantine is going to be that they’re tied to having Covid tests before they go and there’s a two to three-day waiting lists because the Covid test centres here are overloaded.

‘People need a Covid test to go home so they’re not going to get it till Saturday or Sunday at the earliest which makes it impossible for those who can to rearrange their flights.

‘Portugal has been the only major European holiday destination on the green list and we are in a very tourist area in Albufeira.

‘Basically the last week has been like a summer for the first time since 2019. It’s been great. We have a snack bar and we’ve been fully functioning.

‘Now it’s going to go down to literally nothing again, probably just a couple of hundred quid a day I would imagine and people are going to disappear this weekend. It’s a disaster.’ 

John Joyce, from Newcastle, and his family decided to book a holiday in sunny Portugal as soon as Britain added it to the green list of foreign destinations around three weeks ago.

‘Everybody needed a little break… a change from being stuck at home,’ the 44-year-old said as he enjoyed a beer at a restaurant in the heart of Lisbon.

Portugal was the only big beach destination placed on the list, which allowed Britons to travel there without needing to quarantine when returning home. Like Joyce, thousands packed their bags.

Reacting to developments yesterday, though, Mr Joyce said: ‘It’s a bit unfair. There are families bringing out kids and people who booked their holidays already… and the stress involved for people, including myself.’

Charlotte Cheddle, 22, echoed the same feelings, urging the British government to either ‘ban international travel completely or communicate properly with people’.

‘It’s silly,’ she said. ‘We made an effort to get tested privately… We paid for everything and we have done everything to make it safe.’

British families in Portugal now face spending £1,000 for which they have not budgeted to buy PCR tests to get home. Upon returning to the UK, they will have to complete two tests on Days 2 and 8. 

Portugal has lifted most of its lockdown restrictions. The government has been heavily criticised for allowing thousands of mainly maskless English football to party in Porto during the Champions League final last weekend.  

The British government’s decision is a huge blow for Portugal’s tourism sector, which represents a significant chunk of GDP and has Britain as one of its biggest foreign markets.

‘It’s not great for businesses but slowly we will get there – or at least I really hope so because our economy is down,’ said restaurant manager Ana Paula Gomes in Lisbon.

The head of the hotels’ association in the touristy Algarve region, Eliderico Viegas, said Britain’s move would hit the sector like a ‘bucket of cold water’.

João Fernandes, President of Algarve Tourism, speaking in his first comments since the UK announcement, said: ‘As you can imagine we are bitterly disappointed to be moved to the amber list. 

‘In the Algarve region we host two thirds of the British overnight hotel stays in Portugal. And since the start of the pandemic the Algarve has had the lowest number of cases and better indicators than the rest of the country. 

‘Furthermore, Portugal has one of the highest levels of pandemic control and prevention in the EU, according to indicators in the latest ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) report.

‘The millions of Brits that visit us each year contribute to the livelihoods of many people in the region.

‘Our hotels, tour operators and airline partners will also once again be put in a difficult situation, trying to plan around these ever-changing rules.

‘For holidaymakers it is an impossible situation trying to book a holiday overseas, and I sympathise with those that were looking forward to visiting our beautiful region for a well-deserved break.

‘We hope they will re-arrange their holiday to the Algarve for later in the year rather than cancel completely.’  

Alfonso Rodriguez Badal, mayor of the municipality of Calvia which includes the popular British holiday resort of Magaluf, said the decision to keep the Balearic Islands on amber was a ‘surprise.’ 

He added: ‘It’s also obviously a disappointment.

‘We were confident we would go onto a green light rating because we understood people here had made a real effort to get our accumulated coronavirus rate down to a very low level to make us one of the safest if not the safest Mediterranean resort.

‘Therefore we felt this could give the UK enough confidence to let holidaymakers come here without imposing restrictions on their return.

‘It hasn’t happened but we are going to continue working towards achieving this and we are confident and hope that the next UK government revision will lead to Calvia and the Balearic Islands and the rest of Spain as well if it can happen, being given that green traffic light rating that will facilitate the arrivals of more tourists here.’ 

Iago Negueruela, regional Tourism Minister for the Balearic Islands which was hoping to be the sole Spanish region to be put on the UK’s green traffic light system, said he viewed the decision as that of a ‘sovereign state focused on its own domestic health situation’ in light of the June 21 Freedom Day date.

He added: ‘At the moment practically no Mediterranean holiday destination is open for the UK. We respect the British government’s decision.

‘Given the good vaccination rate in the UK if we can go onto a green rating in the next UK government revision, we’ll be in line with the estimations of the major tour operators like TUI and Jet2 who had said they would restart their operations towards the end of June.

‘The British market is a very important market for us and we hope to recover it towards the end of this month.’

Eduardo Jesus, the Regional Secretary for Culture and Tourism of Madeira, called the UK decision to demote it to amber ‘unfair and completely inadequate.’ 

He said: ‘We are already reacting with the British government, presenting a set of arguments we believe are valid, and pointing out that this decision is totally incorrect for Madeira, inadequate and above all, very unfair.’ 

He told local press: ‘The reality of Madeira has been different from the national reality for a long time, with a model adopted here for controlling entry and monitoring citizens throughout their stay in the region. 

‘Furthermore, it is important to bear in mind that Madeira is in a much more advanced state with regard to the vaccination process than mainland Portugal and this is also a factor of confidence, not only for those who live here, but also for those who visit us.

‘The risk of British citizens traveling to Madeira is reduced by the fact that the overwhelming number of passengers come on direct flights.’ 

As well as Portugal being moved to the amber list from Tuesday at 4am, seven countries are being shifted to the red list

As well as Portugal being moved to the amber list from Tuesday at 4am, seven countries are being shifted to the red list

As well as Portugal being moved to the amber list from Tuesday at 4am, seven countries are being shifted to the red list 

Nepal variant ‘could have been spread by Everest climbers’ 

Sources said the mutant strain has been detected in more than 20 Britons and is closely related to the Indian variant currently dominant in the UK

A coronavirus variant that is being linked to Nepal could have been spread by climbers travelling home from Mount Everest, experts say.

As many as 13 passengers flying from Nepal to Japan were infected with the new mutant strain that combines mutations from the Indian and South African variants. 

At least 43 cases have been spotted in the UK, MailOnline revealed today, with the strain first spotted on April 24 according to surveillance data. Cases were also detected in the US, India and Portugal. 

Its mutations mean scientists fear it could be more infectious, and more resistant to vaccines. 

Matt Hancock said yesterday Britain is preparing to buy millions of tweaked doses of the AstraZeneca jab that target the South African variant.

SAGE scientists think it makes jabs at least 30 per cent less effective against infections, but its impact on severe disease is not known.

Ministers sparked surge testing in postcode areas where the strain was detected, to root out every last case.

At least one case has been spotted in Portugal, which sources say will move to the ‘amber’ list today sparking holiday misery across the country.

Only one case of the variant has been recorded in Nepal so far, but the country carries out very little surveillance for mutant strains. The UK has placed Nepal and India on its ‘red’ list, and the US is on its ‘amber’ list. 

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UK holidaymakers revealed they are planning on cancelling their trips to the country while others said they will not bother going abroad this summer.

One Twitter user said: ‘I’m due to fly to Portugal on Sunday for 7 days, so will be green when I go and amber on return? Will my holiday still go ahead??’

Another tweeted: ’17 days Portugal has been on the green list. How the hell is anyone going to have the confidence to book a foreign holiday? I certainly won’t be whilst this traffic light system is in place.’

One person wrote: ‘@jet2tweets what are our options now with Portugal going amber? Supposed to be going in 3 weeks’. Another said: ‘It looks liuke my summer holiday is gone, so this week in Portugal is a god send’. 

On Twitter user added: ‘Would be funny if I hadn’t flown to Portugal this morning’. 

It comes as travel industry leaders blasted the Government’s ‘crippling’ and ‘confusing’ decision to axe Portugal from its green list of safe destinations amid growing concern over the Nepal coronavirus variant. 

In a statement to MailOnline, package holiday firm TUI UK called the announcement ‘another step back for our industry’ and demanded to see the scientific basis for the decision.

Its managing director, Andrew Flintham, said: ‘After promises that the Global Travel Taskforce would result in a clear framework, removing the damaging flip flopping we all endured last summer, the Government decision to move Portugal straight from green to amber will do untold damage to customer confidence. 

‘We were reassured that a green watch list would be created and a weeks’ notice would be given so travellers wouldn’t have to rush back home. They have failed on this promise.

‘Unlike other European countries and despite multiple requests, the government has refused to be transparent about the data requirements for green, amber and red destinations. 

‘We must see the methodology so we can help our customers and plan our operations accordingly. There are destinations around the world with little or no Covid-19 cases and good vaccination rates, so we need to understand why these remain on the amber list.’

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: ‘This shock decision to add Portugal to the Amber list is a huge blow to those who are currently in Portugal and those who have booked to be reunited with loved ones, or take a well-deserved break this summer. 

‘With Portuguese rates similar to those in the UK it simply isn’t justified by the science.

‘And to add no more countries to the Green list when most of Europe’s infection rates are on a downward trend and many places with low infection rates below that of the UK, such as the Balearics with a current rate of 33 in 100,000 and Malta, with just 12 in 100,000, this makes no sense. 

‘Especially when domestic travel is allowed within the UK, despite a number of cities having infection rates 20 times greater than much of Europe.

‘When this framework was put together, consumers were promised a waiting list to allow them to plan. Yet the Government has torn up its own rule book and ignored the science, throwing peoples’ plans into chaos, with virtually no notice or alternative options for travel from the UK. 

‘This decision essentially cuts the UK off from the rest of the world.

‘We have demonstrated that a safe reopening of travel is possible as our study with leading epidemiologists from the Yale School of Public Health showed that the criteria which matters most is the impact on hospitalisation rates back in the UK, not the infection rates in destination. 

‘Reopening travel to much of Europe would have a negligible impact on hospitalisation rates in the UK.

‘While our European fleet is gearing up for summer as European governments open up travel for their citizens, the UK government is making it impossible for airlines to plan while consumers are left grounded in UK.’ 

Shares in easyJet, British Airways-owner IAG and Jet2 were down five per cent on fears that Europe would lose another peak travel season, when millions of Britons usually head to southern Europe in July and August.

Ryanair and TUI, which has a big German customer base as well as British, lost four per cent.

Data provided by Cirium showed that Ryanair and easyJet had been scheduled to operate more than 500 flights from the UK to Portugal in June. The airlines had all added flights to the country in May.

The industry is already weakened by 15 months of lockdowns, forcing it to cut tens of thousands of jobs and take on debt, and it will be severely challenged if there is no reopening this summer.

The news is also likely to sound the alarm in France, Spain, Greece and Italy where thousands of jobs rely on the arrival of high-spending British tourists each summer.

Portugal’s foreign ministry said it did not understand the ‘logic’ behind the decision. 

‘We took note of Britain’s decision to remove Portugal from the green list,’ the ministry said on Twitter, adding that it would continue to ease its lockdown rules ‘gradually’. 

UK holidaymakers scramble to cancel their planned trips to Portugal ahead of the Tuesday deadline, with some revealing they are knocking overseas holidays on the head this year

UK holidaymakers scramble to cancel their planned trips to Portugal ahead of the Tuesday deadline, with some revealing they are knocking overseas holidays on the head this year

UK holidaymakers scramble to cancel their planned trips to Portugal ahead of the Tuesday deadline, with some revealing they are knocking overseas holidays on the head this year

Man City and Chelsea fans told to self-isolate after Porto final 

Hundreds of Manchester City and Chelsea fans who travelled to Portugal for the Champions League final last weekend have been ordered to self-isolate for 10 days – with the country axed from the UK’s Green List.  

Supporters who travelled on a Ryanair flight from Porto to Manchester on Sunday morning have been contacted by the NHS’s Test and Trace app – though the number of positive cases is unknown. 

Three planeloads of Chelsea fans were also asked to self-isolate, leading to fears that all 12,000 supporters who travelled to Lisbon could be affected. Both clubs organised flights for their supporters – though some travelled independently. 

Fans who were on the flights organised by the club shared details of messages from the NHS Track and Trace app which contacts people who have been in close contact with someone who has Covid-19.

‘Anyone else been captured by NHS track and trace since getting back from Porto?’ one supporter posted on Facebook. ‘Despite two vaccinations, a negative test and no symptoms I’ve got to self-isolate for 10 days …Deep Joy!’

Chelsea fans were offered a £199 travel package through the club on top of the cost of the match ticket, although some of their 6,000 supporters chose to travel to the country independently.  

Football fans celebrating Sporting Lisbon’s title win were also identified as potential causes. 

Portugal’s government has kept bars and night clubs closed and still recommend people working from home but the country has now lost its place on the UK’s ‘green list’.  

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No countries are being added to the ‘green list’, dashing hopes that places such as Malta, Jamaica and Grenada could be added to the roster thanks to easing Covid rates.

And more countries are being put on the ‘red list’ that means returning travellers must go into quarantine hotels. They are Egypt, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Bahrain, Sudan, Trinidad and Tobago and Afghanistan. 

Mr Shapps said there had been a rise in test positivity in Portugal, and also pointed to the danger that the coronavirus variant linked to Nepal could pose a fresh threat to the escape from lockdown. 

‘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,’ he said. 

‘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 a vaccine-defeating mutation, and simply don’t want to take the risk as we come up to June 21 and the review of the fourth stage of the unlock.’ 

However, a British Airways spokesperson called the decision ‘incredibly disappointing’ and ‘confusing’, adding: ‘The UK has reached a critical point and urgently needs travel with low-risk countries, like the US, to restart the economy, support devastated industries and reunite loved ones. 

‘With high levels of vaccinations in the UK being matched by other countries, we should see the UK Government adding destinations to ‘green’ as soon as possible – not turning its back on a traffic light model which we were led to believe was based firmly on scientific data.’

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye reacted with fury this afternoon, saying: ‘Ministers spent last month hailing the restart of international travel, only to close it down three weeks later all but guaranteeing another lost summer for the travel sector.

‘Everyone wants to protect public health, but the entire point of the Global Travel Taskforce was to establish a system to unlock low-risk travel safely.

‘Britain is the worst performing economy in the G7, and in the week that the Prime Minister hosts G7 leaders to launch his Government’s vision of Global Britain, he’s sending a message that the UK will remain isolated from the rest of the world and closed to most of its G7 partners.

‘If the Government is serious about protecting UK jobs and supporting businesses across the country, rapid action is needed to reopen flights to key trading partners, remove testing for vaccinated passengers from ‘green’ countries, and slash the cost and complexity of testing, as other G7 countries are doing.’

Gatwick Airport boss Stewart Wingate told MailOnline:  ‘It is bitterly disappointing news for our impacted passengers and airlines that Portugal is to be added to the ‘amber’ list from next week while no further destinations are being opened up for ‘green’ travel.’ 

The chief executive of Manchester Airports Group, Charlie Cornish, accused the Government of ‘scapegoating’ international travel and risking tens of thousands of jobs.

He told MailOnline: ‘We were told the traffic light system would allow people to travel safely, with the right measures in place to manage risk for different countries.

‘But it is now clear the Government doesn’t trust its own system and that international travel is being unfairly scapegoated, with tens of thousands of jobs placed at risk in the process.

‘Low-risk destinations continue to be left off the green list despite clear evidence they are safe to visit. With case rates lower than the UK, we simply cannot understand why the likes of the Balearics, the Canaries and some Greek islands do not fall into that category.

‘If we followed the approach being taken across Europe, lots of other countries – like the United States, Germany and Italy – would also be classed as green. Instead, we’re stuck with a system that is clearly not fit for purpose and will deny people the opportunity to travel abroad safely this year. 

‘The lack of transparency is shocking and totally unacceptable. If the Government has information that supports its decisions, then it needs to publish it. We have repeatedly asked for this data, but we are being left in the dark about how it is making these choices, with no opportunity for scrutiny or challenge.

‘That is not the way to go about limiting people’s freedoms and crippling the country’s travel and tourism sectors. 

‘With so much at stake, we need immediate transparency and urgent action to make this system of travel restrictions fit for purpose.’

Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency, suggested the Government was motivated by ‘political’ considerations rather than public health. 

Holidaymakers suffered a hammer blow as Portugal was removed from the UK's green list with Grant Shapps citing fears over the spread of the Nepal variant

Holidaymakers suffered a hammer blow as Portugal was removed from the UK's green list with Grant Shapps citing fears over the spread of the Nepal variant

Holidaymakers suffered a hammer blow as Portugal was removed from the UK’s green list with Grant Shapps citing fears over the spread of the Nepal variant

Britain recorded more than 5,000 Covid cases for the first time in more than two months while 18 more people died from the virus

Britain recorded more than 5,000 Covid cases for the first time in more than two months while 18 more people died from the virus

Britain recorded more than 5,000 Covid cases for the first time in more than two months while 18 more people died from the virus

‘Everybody needs a break’: British sunseekers react with fury and disbelief as No10 moves Portugal to amber list of nations 

Tired of mixed messages, British sunseekers in Portugal reacted with fury and disbelief to their government’s decision to reimpose a quarantine regime for travellers coming from the popular southern European destination.

Desperate to shake off pandemic blues, John Joyce, from Newcastle, and his family decided to book a holiday in sunny Portugal as soon as Britain added it to the so-called green list of foreign destinations around three weeks ago.

‘Everybody needed a little break… a change from being stuck at home,’ the 44-year-old said as he enjoyed a beer at a restaurant in the heart of Lisbon.

Portugal was the only big beach destination placed on the list, which allowed Britons to travel there without needing to quarantine when returning home. Like Joyce, thousands packed their bags.

But on Thursday Britain shifted Portugal to its amber list due to rising COVID-19 case numbers and the risk of a mutation of the virus variant first discovered in India.

‘It’s a bit unfair,’ Joyce said. ‘There are families bringing out kids and people who booked their holidays already…and the stress involved for people, including myself,’ a visibly annoyed Joyce said.

Charlotte Cheddle, a 22-year-old from England, echoed the same feelings, urging the British government to either ‘ban international travel completely or communicate properly with people’.

‘It’s silly,’ said Cheddle, who will now have to quarantine for 10 days when she flies back. ‘We made an effort to get tested privately…We paid for everything and we have done everything to make it safe.’

Portugal has lifted most of its lockdown restrictions. The government has been heavily criticised for allowing thousands of mainly maskless English football to party in Porto during the Champions League final last weekend.

Some locals worried it could fuel a spike in cases.

The country of just over 10 million people reported 769 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the highest daily increase since early April. Total infections now stand at 851,031.

The British government’s decision is a huge blow for Portugal’s tourism sector, which represents a significant chunk of GDP and has Britain as one of its biggest foreign markets.

‘It’s not great for businesses but slowly we will get there – or at least I really hope so because our economy is down,’ said restaurant manager Ana Paula Gomes in Lisbon.

The head of the hotels’ association in the touristy Algarve region, Eliderico Viegas, said Britain’s move would hit the sector like a ‘bucket of cold water’.

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On the decision not to add any more countries to the green travel list he said: ‘I think it’s a terrible decision that threatens jobs and recovery in the travel sector.

‘It shows little awareness of the safe destinations globally and is at odds with how citizens from other countries such as America are travelling. Those British citizens who have been fully jabbed should be given more flexibility to travel to a wider range of green destinations.

‘They are basically putting at risk tens of thousands of jobs across aviation and the travel sector, and not showing any signs of helping the sector to recover. They seem to want to continue to create an atmosphere of fear among travellers, which is totally at odds with other countries.

‘There are several countries which meet the criteria to be on the green list so this is clearly a politically charged decision rather than one based on data.’

ABTA travel association boss Mark Tanzer said: ‘It’s clear that the Government’s domestic health strategy is continuing to prevent any meaningful resumption of international travel. 

‘You can’t build the recovery of a multi-billion-pound sector while mass market holiday destinations remain off the green list. The removal of Portugal comes on the back on what was already a very short and cautious green list.

‘Travel agents and tour operators haven’t been able to generate income since the start of the pandemic and have been depending on the return of international travel to help bring in some much needed relief.

‘The Government now needs to come forward with tailored financial support for the sector, which recognises that the travel industry’s recovery will be slower than that in other sectors of the economy, and takes account of the unique challenges businesses in the sector are facing.

‘Travel companies are desperately worried that at a time when the market hasn’t opened up they will shortly face increased furlough and business rates costs, with support being gradually withdrawn from the end of this month. 

‘It’s vital that the Government doesn’t leave these businesses behind as it focuses on the domestic unlocking.’ 

Steven Freudmann, chairman of Institute of Travel and Tourism, told MailOnline: ‘It’s an absolute hammer blow to the industry. The EU is about to bring in ‘green passes’ for anyone in the EU to travel freely around Europe, subject to their having been vaccinated or having tested negative.

‘The UK is in real danger of shrinking into splendid isolation whilst at the same time seeing its travel industry die a death of a thousand cuts.

‘The Government delayed 14 days before adding India to the red list, allowing 20,000 people who could have been carrying the new coronavirus strain into the UK. There is just no consistency.’ 

In Portugal, Joao Fernandes, President of the Algarve Tourist Board, described the UK decision to downgrade Portugal from green to amber as a ‘severe setback.’ 

He told Portuguese press: ‘We had a very robust and growing demand for the coming weeks from the British market, with flights increasing their capacity and hotel reservations consolidating.’ 

Speaking just before the announcement was made public he added: ‘It’s obvious any change will have a very significant impact on the Algarve.

‘Data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has just come out which places us among the three countries in Europe with the lowest accumulated incidence of coronavirus in the last 14 days per 100,000 inhabitants.

‘Before coming to Portugal a British tourist has to do a PCR test. In a European context Britain has the most advanced vaccination programme.’   

Alfonso Rodriguez Badal, mayor of the municipality of Calvia which includes the popular British holiday resort of Magaluf, said the decision to keep the Balearic Islands on amber was a ‘surprise.’ He added: ‘It’s also obviously a disappointment.

‘We were confident we would go onto a green light rating because we understood people here had made a real effort to get our accumulated coronavirus rate down to a very low level to make us one of the safest if not the safest Mediterranean resort.

‘Therefore we felt this could give the UK enough confidence to let holidaymakers come here without imposing restrictions on their return.

‘It hasn’t happened but we are going to continue working towards achieving this and we are confident and hope that the next UK government revision will lead to Calvia and the Balearic Islands and the rest of Spain as well if it can happen, being given that green traffic light rating that will facilitate the arrivals of more tourists here.’ 

Iago Negueruela, regional Tourism Minister for the Balearic Islands which was hoping to be the sole Spanish region to be put on the UK’s green traffic light system, said he viewed the decision as that of a ‘sovereign state focused on its own domestic health situation’ in light of the June 21 Freedom Day date.

He added: ‘At the moment practically no Mediterranean holiday destination is open for the UK. We respect the British government’s decision.

‘Given the good vaccination rate in the UK if we can go onto a green rating in the next UK government revision, we’ll be in line with the estimations of the major tour operators like TUI and Jet2 who had said they would restart their operations towards the end of June.

‘The British market is a very important market for us and we hope to recover it towards the end of this month.’

Eduardo Jesus, the Regional Secretary for Culture and Tourism of Madeira, called the UK decision to demote it to amber ‘unfair and completely inadequate.’ 

He said: ‘We are already reacting with the British government, presenting a set of arguments we believe are valid, and pointing out that this decision is totally incorrect for Madeira, inadequate and above all, very unfair.’ 

He told local press: ‘The reality of Madeira has been different from the national reality for a long time, with a model adopted here for controlling entry and monitoring citizens throughout their stay in the region.  

Nepal variant ‘could have been spread by Everest climbers’ 

Sources said the mutant strain has been detected in more than 20 Britons and is closely related to the Indian variant currently dominant in the UK

A coronavirus variant that is being linked to Nepal could have been spread by climbers travelling home from Mount Everest, experts say.

As many as 13 passengers flying from Nepal to Japan were infected with the new mutant strain that combines mutations from the Indian and South African variants. 

At least 43 cases have been spotted in the UK, MailOnline revealed today, with the strain first spotted on April 24 according to surveillance data. Cases were also detected in the US, India and Portugal. 

Its mutations mean scientists fear it could be more infectious, and more resistant to vaccines. 

Matt Hancock said yesterday Britain is preparing to buy millions of tweaked doses of the AstraZeneca jab that target the South African variant.

SAGE scientists think it makes jabs at least 30 per cent less effective against infections, but its impact on severe disease is not known.

Ministers sparked surge testing in postcode areas where the strain was detected, to root out every last case.

At least one case has been spotted in Portugal, which sources say will move to the ‘amber’ list today sparking holiday misery across the country.

Only one case of the variant has been recorded in Nepal so far, but the country carries out very little surveillance for mutant strains. The UK has placed Nepal and India on its ‘red’ list, and the US is on its ‘amber’ list. 

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‘Furthermore, it is important to bear in mind that Madeira is in a much more advanced state with regard to the vaccination process than mainland Portugal and this is also a factor of confidence, not only for those who live here, but also for those who visit us.

‘The risk of British citizens traveling to Madeira is reduced by the fact that the overwhelming number of passengers come on direct flights.’  

UK holidaymakers revealed they are planning on cancelling their trips to the country while others said they will not bother going abroad this summer.

One Twitter user said: ‘I’m due to fly to Portugal on Sunday for 7 days, so will be green when I go and amber on return? Will my holiday still go ahead??’

Another tweeted: ’17 days Portugal has been on the green list. How the hell is anyone going to have the confidence to book a foreign holiday? I certainly won’t be whilst this traffic light system is in place.’

One person wrote: ‘@jet2tweets what are our options now with Portugal going amber? Supposed to be going in 3 weeks’.

Another said: ‘It looks liuke my summer holiday is gone, so this week in Portugal is a god send’. Another added: ‘Would be funny if I hadn’t flown to Portugal this morning’.

The Government said the decision to move Portugal to the amber list followed an ‘almost doubling’ in the country’s coronavirus test positivity rate and the discovery of 68 cases of the Indian variant including some with a mutation previously seen in Nepal.

Public Health England is investigating both the Indian variant and the mutation ‘to better understand whether it could be more transmissible and less effectively tackled by vaccines’.  

Mr Shapps said ‘decisive action’ will help ‘make sure that we can do a domestic unlock’.

‘We would expect in the ordinary course of events for there to be now a three-week period, obviously subject to if something dramatic comes up we would of course need to make changes elsewhere and we will have to reserve the right to do that to protect the population at home.

‘Look, 67million people have been through a lot this last year and a half, but a lot of people have come forward for their jabs in incredible numbers.

‘No one wants the government to fail to take decisive action to protect that as we look towards this fourth unlock, and we want to give ourselves the best possible chance when we get to that unlock and not have factors from outside – for example potentially vaccine defeating mutation – preventing us from being able to give ourselves the best chance of unlocking domestically.’

Mr Shapps said the UK had ‘done wonders with our vaccination programme and the rest of the world will catch up’.

‘Europe is probably 10 weeks behind but they will catch up and I don’t know exactly what that will mean in terms of the summer but the decisive action today is designed to protect the future, to make sure that we can do a domestic unlock or give ourselves the best possible chance of doing so and that will also help us to unlock international travel given time,’ he added.

‘So we’re not in the same place as last year, we’ve got the vaccination programme, we do need to check though that the vaccine can work against all the kinds of mutations that we’re seeing and so we’re having to take a safety first attitude when it comes to those mutations becoming apparent.’

With Portugal facing a shift to the amber list after ministers meet today, people returning from the country will have to self-isolate for 10 days as well as paying for coronavirus tests. 

It will be a huge kick in the teeth to Britons who have already booked a holiday in hot spots such as the Algarve, believing they will be able to return quarantine free.

And it will also be another damaging blow to the already struggling travel industry, which had hoped for more countries to be added to the green list this month. 

Yesterday Portugal saw its highest daily number of cases since March. And the country currently has a case rate of around 37 infections per 100,000 people – higher than the UK’s rate of 34.5.

The final decisions were based on an assessment from the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC).

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the priority was ‘keeping the country safe’. 

‘We have got to follow the data and of course, I understand why people want to travel but we’ve got to make sure we keep this country safe, especially because the vaccine programme is going so well,’ he told reporters at a G7 gathering in Oxford this morning. 

‘We have seen hospitalisations and deaths come right down and we have to got to protect the progress we have made here at home, whilst allowing for travel where it is safe.

‘You have got to follow the data.’ 

Mr Johnson hinted at a hard line when he was asked about expanding the green list yesterday, and said: ‘We’re going to try to allow people to travel, as I know that many people want to, but we’ve got to be cautious and we’ve got to continue to put countries on the red list, on the amber list, when that is necessary.

‘I want you to know we will have no hesitation in moving countries from the green list to the amber list to the red list, if we have to do so. 

‘The priority is to continue the vaccination rollout, to protect the people of this country.’

In the past, holiday-makers have normally been given days – and sometimes up to a week – to return to the UK from countries where travel restrictions have been changed.

The government has ignored pressure for other countries such as Malta to be added to the green list.

The Mediterranean island, a popular destination for British tourists, is currently on the amber list, but has high vaccination levels and low infections.

The Cayman Islands, Grenada, British Virgin Islands, Finland and some Caribbean islands were also among those being floated for the green list. 

Cyprus’ deputy tourism minister yesterday said the country ‘absolutely deserves’ to be in the loosest category. 

After today, the green list – which currently contains 12 countries – will not be reviewed until the week running up to June 28. 

That means it will be July before there is another chance for more destinations to make it on to the list. 

Summer holidays plunged into chaos: No green light for thousands of families and £2billion wiped off airlines as Shapps insists: ‘Nepalese mutant gave us no choice’

By David Churchill and John Stevens for the Daily Mail 

Britons’ hopes of foreign holidays abroad this summer were plunged into turmoil last night.

On a devastating day for the travel industry, ministers shrank the number of countries on the quarantine-free green list and downgraded Portugal.

Amid fears over new variants, several popular holiday destinations that had hoped to ‘go green’ were rejected, while seven more countries were added to the strict red list.

It leaves Gibraltar as the only realistic holiday destination which Britons can visit quarantine-free. Most of the ten other green-list countries have strict entry requirements, or an outright ban on Britons visiting for holidays.

Ministers appeared to signal last night that foreign travel had effectively been sacrificed to give Britain the best chance of lifting all Covid restrictions on June 21. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the ‘decisive action’ would help ‘make sure that we can do a domestic unlock’.

But it triggered fury from travel industry chiefs, who accused the Government of trying to ‘isolate’ Britain from the world and warned that another ‘lost summer’ could lead to a jobs bloodbath and billions more being wiped from the economy.

Figures compiled for the Mail by the all-party Future of Aviation group of MPs last night projected that the cost to the economy could be as much as £11.5billion in outbound travel alone if the current restrictions remain through the next three months. Meanwhile, fears were raised for the 1.6million jobs the aviation, travel and tourism creates.

Wide sandy beach in white city of Albufeira, Algarve

Wide sandy beach in white city of Albufeira, Algarve

Wide sandy beach in white city of Albufeira, Algarve

TUI UK boss Andrew Flintham

TUI UK boss Andrew Flintham

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren

TUI UK boss Andrew Flintham (left) called the announcement ‘another step back for our industry’. EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren (right) said: ‘This shock decision to add Portugal to the Amber list is a huge blow to those who are currently in Portugal and those who have booked to be reunited with loved ones, or take a well-deserved break this summer’

Yesterday’s developments wiped more than £2billion off the value of UK-listed travel and airline firms on the London stock exchange. British Airways owner IAG, easyJet, Ryanair, TUI, Wizz Air and engine maker Rolls-Royce all suffered heavy falls as news spread that no countries would be added to the green list.

And in a sign of the despair gripping the industry, package holiday giant Jet2 cancelled all foreign holidays until July 1 – three days after the next review of the green list is due.

The decision to remove Portugal from the green list was particularly controversial and sparked a diplomatic row last night, with the country’s president accusing UK ministers of ‘health fundamentalism’.

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa also accused the Government of being overly ‘obsessed’ with infection rates, rather than focusing on his country’s low hospital admissions and death rate.

It also sparked a scramble among the British holidaymakers already in Portugal who now have to decide whether to cut short their holidays and dash back by 4am on Tuesday before the amber-list restrictions kick in.

And thousands more who booked to go to there in the coming weeks were left in limbo over whether to re-book or seek refunds.

There was also anger at ministers moving Portugal straight to amber rather than putting it on the ‘watchlist’. This would have kept the country green for a bit longer while warning travellers it could turn amber.

The Mail can reveal that Mr Shapps and Health Secretary Matt Hancock clashed over the issue of holidays at a crunch Cabinet meeting yesterday.

Portugal (pictured: A beach in Cascais near Lisbon) has been dropped from the UK's travel green list - in a move that will be a bitter blow to millions of Britons hoping for a holiday abroad this summer

Portugal (pictured: A beach in Cascais near Lisbon) has been dropped from the UK's travel green list - in a move that will be a bitter blow to millions of Britons hoping for a holiday abroad this summer

Portugal (pictured: A beach in Cascais near Lisbon) has been dropped from the UK’s travel green list – in a move that will be a bitter blow to millions of Britons hoping for a holiday abroad this summer

Mr Hancock was said to have rejected calls for any new low-risk destinations going green and even argued that Portugal shouldn’t go on the ‘amber watchlist’.

He was also said to have pushed back firmly against Malta being added to the green list, despite its very low infection and high vaccination rates. But another source played down the row, saying the pair have ‘a very good working relationship but occasionally have a difference in perspective’.

It came after the Mail yesterday revealed that ministers had been warned by scientists about the emergence of the new ‘Nepal variant’ being detected in holiday hotspots.

Mr Shapps confirmed yesterday that the emergence of the variant contributed to a stripped-down green list, with the infection rate in Portugal – where cases of the variant have been detected – ‘nearly doubling’ in recent weeks.

But travel industry leaders warned that consumer confidence will be ‘destroyed’ now they know how quickly countries can be downgraded. Heathrow chief John Holland-Kaye said: ‘Ministers spent last month hailing the restart of international travel, only to close it down three weeks later, all but guaranteeing another lost summer for the travel sector.’

Acting general secretary of the BALPA union, Brian Strutton, said: ‘This decision is a total disaster for the already fragile travel industry and is likely to lead to further airline failures and many more job losses.

‘Any shred of public confidence is in tatters and the traffic light system seems stuck on red. Our airlines need this summer season if they are to survive.’

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said last night: ‘This decision will further threaten tens of thousands of jobs in aviation and travel, not to mention further damage consumer confidence.

‘The data shows several countries should be green so the Government’s decision defies logic. Summer is being squeezed by a policy of fear.’

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, chairman of the home affairs committee, added: ‘The Government put Portugal on the green list only two and a half weeks ago, encouraging people to book holidays, and now they have had to reverse their decision, citing new variants and the impact on the timetable for lifting domestic restrictions.

‘This is a completely chaotic way to make important public health decisions and is causing confusion for everyone.’

Link hienalouca.com

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