Holidaymakers in Portugal are facing chaos today after infections passed the UK’s threshold for imposing quarantine again.
There were 21.1 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the country over the seven days to August 30 – up from 19.4 in the week to August 29.
A rate of 20 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period is the level ministers look at to trigger isolation rules.
Around 75,000 UK nationals are thought to be on holiday in Portugal or due to fly there imminently.
Many could face having to fly home early to beat a deadline before any quarantine restriction is imposed.
A clamp on travellers from Portugal would represent a further embarrassment for a Government which has been lambasted for its ‘shambolic’ marshalling of the travel sector during the pandemic. The quarantine rules are reviewed at the end of each week, but ministers have made clear they will act more quickly if necessary.
When the cumulative number of Covid-19 cases hits 20 per 100,000 people over a seven-day period ministers consider triggering isolation rules. The total of 2,171 cases in Portugal over the past week gives a level of 21.1 per 100,000 population
There are fears that Portugal might be placed on the UK’s quarantine list again, after a spike in cases took it perilously close to the government’s threshold. Pictured, Costa da Caparica beach in Almada
The government today played down the prospect of routine coronavirus testing at airports – suggesting it would miss too many cases to be effective.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said border controls were always kept under review, but warned that screening on arrival would not remove the risk of the disease being imported into the country.
The comments came amid fears that Portugal might be placed on the quarantine list again, after a spike in cases took it perilously close to the government’s threshold.
In a round of interviews this morning, Mr Eustice was asked whether it was time for the government to heed calls for widespread testing at airports as part of the UK’s response to the pandemic.
‘Obviously all of these things are always kept under review,’ he told Sky News.
‘The advice so far on testing on arrival at airports is that the likelihood of missing people who are maybe asymptomatic and therefore won’t show up on the test is quite high.
‘Somebody can pass negative to a test and therefore think they are okay and find a few days later they develop symptoms.’
The remarks followed concern that almost 200 passengers who were on a flight from the Greek island of Zante a week ago have now been told to self-isolate.
There are 16 cases of Covid-19 linked to people who took Tui flight 6215 to Cardiff on August 25.
Paul Charles, boss of travel consultancy PC Agency, said the figures for Portugal suggest it could be taken off the Foreign Office travel corridor list in days.
He added: ‘Portugal is likely to go back on the UK’s quarantine list this week and the country itself is now preparing a ‘state of contingency’ from September 15.
‘It has been unable to manage its caseload over the last two weeks as more tourists have entered Portugal, especially Lisbon and Porto.’
PC Agency, which publishes a daily tally of country infection rates, listed Portugal as an ‘amber’ nation, meaning it is approaching the UK threshold for quarantine with 19.4 virus cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day cumulative count – compared with 12.2 in Britain.
In late June, ministers began encouraging Britons to holiday abroad to boost the travel industry as restrictions were eased, only to warn within weeks that ‘no travel is risk-free.’
That followed a decision to introduce quarantine measures on arrivals from Spain with just five hours’ notice.
Mr Charles suggested yesterday that Portugal had been a ‘victim of its own success in attracting so many tourists rapidly’.
When Portugal was added to the travel corridor list on August 22 – meaning no need for holidaymakers to quarantine for 14 days upon their return to the UK – flight comparison site Skyscanner reported a 2,000 per cent increase in bookings.
In a round of interviews this morning, Environment Secretary George Eustice was asked whether widespread testing at airports should be part of the UK’s response to the pandemic
Portugal is listed as an ‘amber’ nation, meaning it is approaching the UK threshold for quarantine with 19.4 virus cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day cumulative count