Portugal is one of a handful of tourist destinations appearing on the government’s ‘green list’ as part of the reopening of international travel from 17 May, it was confirmed on Friday.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that the country had made the list of ‘safe’ green countries, stating that the removal of international travel restrictions on May 17 was “necessarily cautious”, adding: “We must make sure the countries we reconnect with are safe.”
Golden beaches, cobbled streets and historic cities have turned this European country in a solid hit with British holidaymakers.
Foreign travel will reopen this summer under a traffic light system, with countries split into three categories: green, amber or red, depending on their level of risk in relation to Covid-19 and with corresponding travel restrictions.
Destinations will make it onto the green list based on their case numbers, vaccination rates, and prevalence of any virus variants of concern. Visitors to these countries will not be required to quarantine upon their return to the UK unless they test positive for coronavirus.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced on Friday that Portugal would join Israel and Gibraltar on the list of ‘green countries. He said the removal of international travel restrictions on May 17 was “necessarily cautious”, adding: “We must make surethe countries we reconnect with are safe.”
So, is a Portuguese getaway likely this summer? Here’s everything you need to know.
Will British holidaymakers be allowed to travel to Portugal this summer?
Last week, Portugal recorded no Covid deaths for the first time since August.
The country is emerging from a lengthy lockdown that began in January and helped Portugal slash infection rates following a previous surge in transmission.
A four-stage plan introduced by the Portuguese government to ease Covid-19 restrictions saw most of the country enter the fourth and final stage on 1 May.
Rita Marques, secretary of state for tourism, told the BBC: “I do believe that Portugal will soon allow restriction-free travel, not only for vaccinated people, but those who are immune or who test negative. We hope to welcome British tourists from 17 May.
“Everything will be ready by mid-May.”
On 16 April, Portugal lifted its flight ban on the UK, raising hopes for summer holidays there.
Although it remains illegal to travel abroad from the UK for holidays, this is expected to change from 17 May. Portugal is currently a strong contender for the UK’s green list.
What would a trip to a green list destination entail?
Holidaymakers returning to the UK from green list destinations will be required to take a pre-departure test – which can be a lateral flow or rapid antigen test – and a PCR test within two days of arrival. They will not need to quarantine unless they test positive for Covid-19.
Tourism minister Rita Marques recently said the country would try “at all costs to avoid quarantines and additional Covid-19 tests” for tourists, reports MailOnline.
She added that Brexit should not be an obstacle to British holidaymakers, saying: “Portugal is still identifying many issues that need special care due to Brexit but the Portugal brand is strong, particularly among the British.”
Will I need to have been vaccinated to visit Portugal?
Regardless of Portugal’s green status, it’s likely that holidaymakers will be required to provide proof of either full vaccination (two jabs) or a negative Covid test to enter the country.
What rules and restrictions are in place in Portugal?
Measures remain in place throughout Portugal to control the spread of the virus. The Foreign Office (FCDO) states that there remains “an ongoing civic duty to remain at home, whenever possible”.
Face masks must be worn in all enclosed spaces, and outdoors where social distancing of two metres cannot be maintained.
Restrictions continue in the municipalities of Odemira and Portimão, including the closure of restaurants, cafes and all non-essential shops, and travel is prohibited.
For most of mainland Portugal, however, shops are open until 9pm on weekdays, restaurants and cafes are open until 10.30pm, with gatherings limited to six people per table indoors and 10 people per table outdoors, and museums, cinemas, theatres and gyms are open.
Restrictions remain in place on Madeira, Porto Santo and The Azores, including curfews.
It’s likely that more restrictions will be eased to coincide with the return of tourists, planned for mid-May.
What is the current Covid-19 status in Portugal?
After becoming the world's worst-hit country by size of population in January, Portugal has seen the pandemic ebb significantly following a four-month lockdown.
According to the World Health Organisation, there have been 16,983 deaths from coronavirus recorded in Portugal to date. The country has vaccinated about 18 per cent of its population and cases are continuing to fall throughout Portugal.
Speaking in April, Ricardo Mexia, head of Portugal’s National Association of Public Health Doctors, said that the spread of Covid-19 in the country “is very much under control”.
Portugal, he told the Associated Press, is reaping the fruit of a lockdown that “went on probably a bit longer than was strictly necessary.”