Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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Petition To take Portugal off the travel Red List

As one of our oldest allies it is time to take Portugal off the travel Red List. Our formerly strong relationship with the country is on the brink of collapse. Portugal has a good tourism and working relationship with the UK and the issue of them being singled out needs to be addressed.

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Government responded

This response was given on 19 March 2021

Portugal was removed from the ‘red list’ at 4am on Friday 19 March following a review of scientific and medical data which indicated the risks of importing a variant of concern have reduced.

Read the response in full

The government’s response throughout the pandemic has been to put in place proportionate measures informed by the advice of scientists, including taking decisive action where the public health risks are high.

The decision to place Portugal on the ‘red list’ of high-risk countries with enhanced travel restrictions from 4am on 15 January was in direct response to the emergence of a new variant of concern (VOC) first identified in Brazil (VUI202101/01). Following analysis of this VOC, decisive action was taken to impose additional measures on people travelling from countries with strong travel connections to Brazil. This was to primarily prevent the risk of importation of this VOC into the UK, but also to protect the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

These measures included “enhanced self-isolation" requiring British and Irish Nationals (and third country nationals with residence rights in the UK) who had travelled from or transited through these countries to self-isolate for 10 days, as well as members of their household. Since 15 February arrivals from high-risk (known as “red list”) countries have been required to quarantine in government managed hotels. These are all temporary measures that are kept under review and the government has always said they will only be kept in place whilst the level of risk justifies the measures.

Since then, case levels in England have improved with national lockdown and the rollout of the vaccine having a positive impact on limiting the spread of the virus. We have also been closely monitoring the situation in Portugal and we welcome steps taken by the Portuguese authorities to limit the spread of the variant first identified in Brazil, such as banning direct flights into Portugal from Brazil.

Ministerial decisions to introduce or remove countries from the red list are made in direct response to scientific and medical data, which represents whether there is an increased risk to UK public health and an increased risk of community transmission of the COVID-19 variants identified in other countries.

Following a review of data and evidence that showed Portugal has put steps in place to mitigate the risk of VOC, including genomic surveillance, which indicates the risks of importing a VOC has reduced, the government announced on 15 March that Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores) would be removed from the ‘red list’ at 4am on 19 March. This means that passengers arriving into England from Portugal will no longer be required to quarantine in a government approved facility. However, they must self-isolate for ten days on arrival to the UK at home and take a COVID-19 test on day 2 and day 8 of their isolation period.

On 22 February the Government published its roadmap out of the current lockdown in England. The Transport Secretary will lead a successor to the Global Travel Taskforce, which will report by 12 April, with recommendations aimed at facilitating a return to international travel as soon as is possible whilst still managing risk from imported cases and variants of concern. Following that, the Government will determine when international travel should resume, which will be no earlier than 17 May.

Public health is a devolved matter in the United Kingdom, therefore Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may take their own approach if they so wish.

Department for Transport

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