Get ready Portugal, the English are coming

Won’t be empty for long.
Won’t be empty for long.
Image: REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
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With the majority of UK adults having received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and with infections currently low, the government this week outlined plans for the return of international leisure travel. People in England will soon be legally permitted to go on vacation again, and tourists from some countries can visit the UK without undergoing the expensive, cumbersome quarantine process.

The border was never fully sealed, and despite the threat of £5,000 ($7,000) fines, some travelers have taken advantage of various loopholes. But the majority of the public in England has stayed put since the third lockdown was imposed in January. London’s Heathrow Airport, normally one of the world’s busiest, saw a 91% year-over-year decline in passenger numbers in the first three months of 2021.

The UK’s traffic light system

“We want to start looking outward again,” UK transport secretary Grant Shapps said as he outlined a new traffic light system for England-based travelers starting today (May 7), with green and amber lists being added to an existing red list. There are separate rules for Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

🔴  Travelers from countries on the red list are not allowed to enter the UK, unless they are UK citizens or permanent residents. Even then, they must undergo a mandatory, expensive quarantine in a hotel. Turkey, the Maldives, and Nepal have now been added to the red list, which already includes much of South Asia, Africa, and Latin America; outbound travel to these countries remains illegal for most people.

🟠  The amber list includes most of the world, and does not permit travel for leisure. Under certain circumstances, people in England will be allowed to go to, say, France or Spain, but must quarantine and take mandatory Covid-19 tests when they return. Of course, many amber countries, such as the US, also have their own restrictions in place.

🟢  From May 17, travelers to the following countries will be permitted to re-enter England without quarantining: Portugal, Israel, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Iceland, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, St Helena, Tristan de Cunha, and Ascension Island. The green list will be reviewed every three weeks, and travelers must still produce negative Covid tests or proof of vaccination, depending on the destination.

Portugal’s popularity with British travelers

The tourism industry is a major part of Portugal’s economy, with more than 17 million visitors arriving in 2019. (Portugal’s population is just over 10 million.) The southern European country has always been a favorite destination for Brits; it’s just a couple of hours away, has plenty of beach resorts, and enjoys great weather.

“The British market is really important to all of Europe,” Portugal’s tourism minister, Rita Marques, told BBC News earlier this week. “We are ready to welcome you when you are ready to come.”