Augusto Santos Silva, Portugal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said the country was ‘very disappointed’ to have been excluded from the list of exempted countries, saying that while there had been isolated, specific outbreaks of Covid-19 in Lisbon, the Algarve and other popular tourist and second home destinations among Brits were not coronavirus hotspots.
“We are very disappointed with this decision of the British authorities. We think it's senseless and unfair. It's quite absurd,” Santos Silva, speaking to BBC Radio 4 last Friday, said.
“The United Kingdom has seven times more cases related to Covid-19 than Portugal, so we think this is not the way in which allies and friends are treated.”
The Prime Minister of Portugal, Antonio Costa, also insisted that the Algarve was a safe place to spend a holiday this summer.
Costa, in a tweet written on Friday, included a graph comparing the number of Covid-19 cases in the UK unfavourably to those in the Algarve, pointedly adding the words: “You are welcome to spend a safe holiday in Algarve.”
Portugal has so far recorded around 1,600 deaths from coronavirus in all settings. Meanwhile, in the UK, more than 44,000 people have died from Covid-19. Even when accounting for the large differences in population size and density, Portugal comes off far better than the UK in the way it has handled the pandemic.
British tourism is also absolutely crucial to Portugal, in particular holiday regions such as the Algarve, with around 2.5 million Britons travelling to Portugal in 2019, according to UK government data.
It wasn’t just Portugal which was unhappy, the devolved nations of the UK – who have autonomy over health measures in their respective countries – weren’t happy, either, with the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales slamming the UK government’s quarantine announcement as shambolic.
Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford both hit out at the government’s handling of its coronavirus travel quarantine, with Drakeford saying: “If ever there was an example of making an announcement first and then trying to work out what you meant by it - that is what we have seen since this announcement was first trailed in the press.”
He added: “And day after day we have attempted to get a sensible answer from the UK government on how they intend to make these changes, which countries they intend to extend the arrangements to, and I just have to say it’s been an impossible experience to follow.”
So, what exactly are the new quarantine rules, who do they apply to, and which countries have the UK actually been able to reach a reciprocal arrangement with? Below, we do our best to outline the current state of play.
More than 50 countries where you don’t need to quarantine upon return
The government outlined 59 countries, and 14 British Overseas Territories – including the Falklands Islands and Gibraltar – where quarantining for two weeks upon your return is not necessary from July 10.
People arriving in England from the below countries are exempt from quarantine if these are the only places they have been to or stopped in during the previous 14 days.
Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, Croatia, Curaçao, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Faroe Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, French Polynesia, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malta, Mauritius, Monaco, Netherlands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Réunion, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, South Korea, Spain, St Barthélemy, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Pierre and Miquelon, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Vatican City, Vietnam.
The 14 British Overseas Territories are Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory (BAT), British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, the Pitcairn Island, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, Sovereign Base Areas (SBA), South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, and Turks and Caicos Islands.
Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands were already exempt from the quarantine as they are part of the common travel area.
While the Foreign Office is no longer advising against non-essential travel to certain low-risk countries, anyone with coronavirus symptoms, or who has been asked to isolate under the government’s test and trace programme, should not travel. If you develop symptoms while travelling, you should tell a member of the staff or crew.
Before arriving in the UK, everyone must complete a passenger locator form, which must be presented on arrival in England. This applies to both visitors and UK residents.
The government is keeping the exemption list under close review, with self-isolation requirements potentially reintroduced if the situation worsens in some countries. Equally, new names might be added to the list, with ongoing discussions between the UK and its international partners.
Travellers are being advised to always check the latest FCO travel advice before travelling, with advice available that includes information on any health measures in place for visitors to the country or territory.
From July 10 2020, you will not have to self-isolate when you arrive in England, if you:
The government says this applies to all travel to England, by train, ferry, coach, air or any other route. Those who have been to or stopped in a country that’s not on the travel corridors exemption list will have to self-isolate until 14 days have passed since they left that country.
Anyone travelling is advised to take out appropriate travel insurance in case unexpected costs or complications occur.
The devolved administrations still currently have a quarantine system in place. The Scottish government says it hasn’t made a decision yet on whether to ease quarantine restrictions, while the same applies to the Welsh government. In Northern Ireland, travellers are still being asked to quarantine if they arrive from outside the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
Travel information for the devolved administrations is set to be published in ‘due course’.
When do you have to quarantine?
If you arrive back in England from the US, Canada and much of Central and South America, you will still have to self-isolate for 14 days, while the same applies to countries in Africa, the Middle East and the majority of Asia
In Europe, travellers from Sweden, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia and a number of other countries will have to quarantine upon arrival, as has been the case since early June.
The system is also slightly complicated by restrictions being in place in different countries, which British tourists and visitors will need to abide by. This could even include quarantine when they arrive at their destination.
In fact, around half the countries and territories on the list have restrictions for arriving UK visitors. Greece, for example, is not accepting direct UK flights until at least July 15, with no guarantee that this policy will change upon review. In Austria, meanwhile, Britons will need to self-isolate unless they have a recent medical certificate or test negative for coronavirus on arrival.
Elsewhere, New Zealand has prohibited almost all foreign travellers from visiting, while neighbour Australia requires an exemption visa if you are not a resident or a citizen. In South Korea, you face a 14-day quarantine, while visitors to Iceland can either choose to pay for a test or go into quarantine instead. Furthermore, Cyprus won’t allow anyone who has been in the UK in the last 14 days to enter. However, the country is set to end quarantine restrictions for Brits from August 1, the country’s health minister recently announced.
While 25 of the 73 countries and territories on the UK’s exempted list are not currently letting Brits in, these restrictions could change. France, for instance, currently has a voluntary quarantine for UK travellers entering the country, but it’s believed that this will be lifted when the UK removes its restrictions for French travellers.
In truth, it’s all still a bit confusing – and a very fast-moving situation. It should be easier to travel between the UK and second home hotspots such as France, Spain and Italy from July 10, but other popular destinations such as Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and the US look set to continue to have significant obstacles for some time yet.
Air bridges – creating quarantine, restriction-free travel between the UK and low-risk countries – were heavily speculated about, but appear not to have materialised. The traffic light system, which was still being mentioned by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps late last week, also seems to have gone missing in action.
This BBC article provides an excellent overview of popular holiday destinations and their current rules or restrictions. Equally, this Guardian article details which countries UK citizens can currently visit without facing restrictions.