Passengers back into UK in nick of time as Portugal goes on amber list

‘I felt ashamed to be British’: Passengers scrape back into UK in nick of time as Portugal goes on the amber list – but are disgusted at damage caused to resorts they had to leave

  • British passengers now have until 4am tomorrow to return to the country or face home quarantine for 10 days 
  • Travellers have described how the abrupt change made them feel ‘ashamed to be British’ as they left Portugal 
  • Cabinet ministers on Thursday downgraded Portugal from green to amber over growing fears of Nepal variant
  • But just one case of the latest strain had been found in Portugal at the time, while 43 had been found in the UK 
  • The abrupt move wiped billions off the value of airlines and has sparked fury across devastated travel industry

Tourists returning to Birmingham from Portugal said they felt ‘ashamed to be British’ as they abandoned resorts to beat amber list quarantine restrictions with hours to spare.

The decision to drop Portugal from the UK’s green list was branded ‘atrocious’ by the last passengers flying into Birmingham from the holiday hotspot before tougher restrictions are introduced tomorrow.

Passengers on this afternoon’s scheduled flight to Birmingham Airport from Madeira were lucky enough to avoid new ten-day quarantine rules coming in as the country moves to the amber list from 4am on Tuesday, June 8.

The holiday plans of thousands lie in tatters after Cabinet ministers abruptly relegated Portugal from green to amber.

From tomorrow UK travellers flying in from Portugal must have proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than three days before their flight or face a £500 fine.

Holidaymakers will face extra costs to enter the UK under amber list rules, including proof they have booked and paid for two Covid tests to be taken on day two and day eight of quarantine. 

Busy at Heathrow: Passengers rush to get home to the UK on Monday evening before Portugal is added to the amber list

Pictured: Bob Wallis (pictured with wife Christine Daiton) said he felt ‘ashamed to be British’ when he was returning on a flight from Madeira, Portugal to Birmingham Airport before Portugal moves into the Amber list after an abrupt decision by ministers

Andrew and Lyn Ball, who returned from Madeira, said airports were chaos with passengers struggling to fill out paperwork

Pictured: Jacqueline Leonard, from Stechford, said the decision to move Portugal onto the amber list was atrocious

They will not be able to leave self-isolation until they have received a negative result from the second test after 10 days or earlier if they pay for a private test under the Test to Release scheme. 

Despite the fortunate timing of their returns, jetsetter Bob Wallis said the Government’s last minute change – giving families just four days notice – left him feeling ‘ashamed to be British’.

‘We were lucky. People arrived a day after us and they can’t get back,’ said Mr Wallis after his two-week holiday with wife Christine.

‘There were families with three kids, they should have been given a lot more notice, four days was ridiculous.

‘I think the way the Government has treated Portugal and the islands is shambolic and disgraceful.

‘I felt ashamed to be British out there at one point because all these guys are depending on British tourism and they were shocked that this happened.

‘You feel really sorry for them.’

The retired couple, from Rutland, said they ‘just managed’ to squeeze in their fortnight trip within the three weeks Portugal was on the UK’s green list.

The coronavirus rules meant the airport in Portugal was ‘chaotic’, with struggles to fill in forms and delays as other passengers booked onto the flight, Mr Wallis said.

‘Other people had checked onto our flight, it was nearly an hour late. We thought we had everything done, but we were still directed back from the check in desks,’ he said.

From tomorrow UK travellers flying in from Portugal must have proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than three days before their flight or face a £500 fine. Pictured: passengers arrive on the last flights from Portugal at Heathrow tonight

From tomorrow passengers flying into the UK from Portugal must go into self-isolation on their return. Breaking quarantine could lead to a £10,000 fine, while UK travellers who do not take the day 2 and day 8 tests could be fined £2,000

And the couple said they now felt as if they needed another holiday as the break was ‘ruined’ by the stress of the ‘stupid lists’.

Mr Wallis continued: ‘We enjoyed the holiday but you feel you need another holiday having got back, after going through this. It just ruins it.

‘We’re not going abroad again while all these stupid lists exist. Usually we go away every six weeks. It’ll be back to Cornwall I think.’

Jacqueline Leonard, from Stechford, returned on the same flight following her break in Madeira.

She agreed: ‘Them putting it onto an amber, I think, is atrocious.

‘They [Portugal] are trying to establish themselves and get things up and running again but they’re being forced to stop again, everyone else can go, but the English can’t go.

Families have described having to fork out hundreds of pounds to make sure they made it back in time. Pictured: Heathrow

Britons said resorts in Portugal felt safe with hand sanitiser stations everywhere and temperature checks being carried out

‘It’s a shame really, it’s a lovely island and such a lot to do there, people are going to miss out. It’s really safe, everything is top notch.’

‘It’s unfair really. People who have gone out on green should be allowed to come back on green. As long as all the tests are negative I can’t see what the problem is.

‘We’ve got some friends coming back Friday. They’re still there and they’re going to have to do an extra test which they’re not happy about.’

Andrew and Lyn Ball, from Nottingham, said the airport in Portugal was ‘horrendous’.

‘It was horrendous in the airport, so many people were struggling with the passenger locator forms, the technology is difficult to follow,’ Lyn said.

Despite the difficulties coming home, Mrs Ball said the holiday abroad felt Covid safe, with hospitality staff taking temperatures and hand sanitiser stations ‘everywhere’.

‘We just relaxed mainly,’ she said.

‘It was extremely safe, we felt very safe. Everywhere there was gel, when we went in restaurants, they took your temperature.

Pictured: the last flight from Portugal arrived on Monday evening at Heathrow terminal 5 before travel restrictions change

Travellers who provide incorrect information when filling out passenger locator form could be fined £10,000 or imprisoned for up to 10 years – or both. Pictured: passengers arrive on the last flight from Portugal at Heathrow on Monday night

‘We’ve got another holiday booked for the end of October to the Canary Islands, but that will depend on the situation with the Government.’

Breaking quarantine could lead to a £10,000 fine, while UK travellers who do not take the day 2 and day 8 tests could be fined £2,000. Those who provide incorrect information when filling out their passenger locator form could be fined £10,000 or imprisoned for up to 10 years – or both. 

The decision instantly wiped billions off the value of airlines, while furious travel industry chiefs warned it risked creating a jobs bloodbath and wrecking an already devastated sector. But the move is also hitting the pockets of ordinary families desperate for a break from successive lockdowns. 

At Heathrow Airport, Laura Fernandes, 45, a manager from Barnet, who went on holiday with her children and mother, said: ‘It’s been an absolute nightmare. I’ve had to pay for a second flight for five people so it cost £1,700. I also had to reschedule all our Covid tests which was also a nightmare. 

‘I went on holiday in Albufeira, in the south, because it was the only possibility. We were supposed to be coming back on Wednesday. But because it’s now been put on the amber list I had to change our flights. Because of quarantine, the kids would not have been able to go back to school. It’s a nightmare’.  

Alan and Lisa Pechey, from Cambridge, who were on holiday in Lisbon, said they paid £800 – £400 each – to book a flight to Gatwick Airport to avoid having to quarantine at home. The decision had ‘really spoiled’ their holiday and left them under ‘extreme distress’ and ‘pretty furious’. 

At Heathrow Airport in west London, Laura Fernandes, 45, a manager from Barnet, who went on holiday with her children and mother, said: ‘It’s been an absolute nightmare. I’ve had to pay for a second flight for five people so it cost £1,700’

UK passengers arrive at Heathrow Terminal 2 from Portugal after dashing home to avoid having to quarantine at home

Green and amber list passengers who landed in Heathrow found that they were being forced to mix in queues while Border Force officials checked their Covid documentation and passports

Mrs Pechey, 66, said: ‘It was really expensive and I think the Government was totally unfair to throw that at us on Thursday because it really spoiled our holiday, totally. We had flown out on Monday for a relaxing break, but from Thursday onwards we were under extreme stress.

‘My main problem was the stress, because we didn’t want to quarantine. I was pretty furious because they should have told us to watch out if we were going to Portugal so everyone would have known.’ 

At Faro Airport in the Algarve, thousands of holidaymakers formed long queues and waited for up to four hours to get swabbed at a testing site in the airport car park. Other testing sites in the region which people could have used were experiencing backlogs caused by a surge in demand.

Green and amber list passengers who landed in Heathrow found that they were being forced to mix in queues while Border Force officials checked their Covid documentation and passports.

Speaking to MailOnline, Paul Charles, chief executive of the PC Agency, said: ‘Why is it safe for amber and green passengers to mix if amber is such a problem to ministers? It all points to the truth that government policy is a shambles and that they have made a complete mess of what should have been a very simple traffic light system.’

Ministers downgraded Portugal on its travel list last Thursday, citing fears over the so-called Nepal variant – even though just one case of the strain was detected in Portugal when the decision was announced.   

UK arrivals from Portugal leave Heathrow Terminal 5 as they get home to avoid undergoing a 10-day quarantine

Passengers arrive at Gatwick Airport, West Sussex, before UK travellers from Portugal are required to quarantine for 10 days

Alan Pechey, 73, and Lisa Pechey, 66, who live in Cambridge, arrive at Gatwick Airport after returning from Portugal

UK travellers pack into the departures lounge in Faro Airport, Portugal as they dash to get home ahead of 4am tomorrow

Passengers sit and lie on their baggage as they queue at check-in at Faro Airport as they try to get home before tomorrow

British travellers pack out the departures lounge in Faro Airport, Portugal, as they dash back to the UK before tomorrow

A health technician takes a nasal swab for a PCR test of a traveller at Synlab post in Lisbon Airport, Portugal

Ministers are not adding any countries to its so-called ‘green list’, dashing hopes that places such as Malta, Jamaica and Grenada could be added to the roster thanks to easing coronavirus rates

From Gerard Couzens at Faro Airport

Frantic Britons queued for hours in baking heat yesterday as they tried to beat the clock to get out of Portugal.

Hundreds who turned up at Faro airport for rescheduled flights had to line up outside the terminal in 25C (77F) heat.

The wait was even longer for those scrambling to get Covid tests without which they could not get on their planes.

Those who fail to return home by 4am tomorrow will have to quarantine for ten days after Portugal was unexpectedly moved off the ‘green list’ last week.

Portugal’s downgrading triggered chaos as holidaymakers scrambled to dash home to beat ten-day quarantine rules which kick in at 4am tomorrow

This prompted many to cut short their holiday – some almost immediately after arriving – to go back home.

Algarve tourism bosses mobilised a lorry to beef up airport Covid testing after travellers were turned away from centres near their resorts.

Many decided to come to the airport a day before their pre-quarantine flights home to make sure they got test results. They took no chances after several holidaymakers missed their flights home at the weekend after failing to get their negative results back in time.

Katherine Hitchen, 30, from Hindhead, Surrey, travelling home with dad Michael and daughter Ivy, three, said: ‘We touched down on Thursday to texts saying Portugal had been put on the amber list. We were planning to stay for a week but are going back on Monday now to avoid quarantine.

‘It’s been a stressful few days since we arrived.

Katherine Hitchen with her dad Michael and daughter Ivy, three

‘I’d like to be sitting round the pool right now, not waiting to have a swab stuck up my nose.’

Louise Cooper, 55, from High Peak in Derbyshire turned up to be tested at Faro airport yesterday eight hours before her flight home. She said: ‘We got here on Monday morning and spent the first three days trying to sort out the tests for our flight home.

‘It’s been a nightmare. Everywhere was fully booked. The only place we were offered was a drive-thru in Faro which was about an hour away from where we’ve been staying in Praia da Luz. Being a drive-thru, we were told we needed a car – which we don’t have.’ 

Michael Nyhan, 70, who arrived on Thursday for a week’s break in Praia da Rocha with wife Angela, 67, said: ‘We’re going back today instead. We can’t face being cooped up inside again after the lockdown we’ve already been through.

‘We hadn’t even checked into our hotel room when we found out Portugal was going amber.’

Tourists wanting to beat the deadline are being hit by a combination of many flights being sold out, and the handful of available seats being sold at inflated prices.

Ryanair is charging £285 for a flight from Faro to Bournemouth on Monday, but just £17 on Wednesday. EasyJet flights from Faro to Gatwick are £227 on Monday and £53 on Tuesday. 

Even for passengers who had booked their flights before the deadline, it has been ‘really stressful.’

Ines Narraway, 37, from London, who spent a week in Portugal with her two children and husband, said: ‘We were okay because we were always meant to come back today. But it’s been really stressful because we’re Portuguese, so we have family there and we don’t know when we will be able to see them again.

‘And it’s not been clear when the rules were going to kick in and whether we would have to change our flights. The Government’s policy needs to be more consistent because this thing of 15 days on the green list and now we’re not, is just ridiculous.’

Others who did not have to change their flights say they got lucky, but don’t understand why Portugal has been shifted onto the amber list.

Alba Moran, 32, a vet from North Hampshire, said: ‘I was on holiday in Portugal for five nights, but was always planning on coming back today, so it hasn’t really affected me. My test was 100 per cent free and I could do it at the hotel where I was staying. 

‘I had to come back today, which was really lucky, so I wasn’t too worried about the rules changing. I didn’t see anything there to suggest Portugal should be on the amber list, but I guess they have to do it.’

Chris Hesford, 28, a lawyer from central London said: ‘We were there for 10 days, but we were always coming back today, so that’s lucky. The journey was absolutely fine, to be honest, and the airport wasn’t packed or anything like that.

‘I just feel sorry for Portugal because it seems really similar to here – they’re even stricter on wearing masks and things like that. I think we’re slightly sceptical of the Covid rules generally, and obviously we don’t have all the numbers, but it seemed fine out there.’

One woman said she paid £300 extra for a flight from Portugal to avoid quarantining at home for 10 days. Speaking at Gatwick Airport, Ana Pacheco, 28, from Islington, who was on holiday near Porto, said: ‘I was a little annoyed and upset but there’s nothing I can do because I really needed to go to Portugal.

‘I lost money on this trip, about £300 extra, because I was due to come back tomorrow evening, so it is quite annoying. I think there should have been extra time added on for us to get home, at least a week would have been better.’

Holidaymakers said their flight from Portugal was at ‘full capacity’ as people rushed home to avoid quarantining.

Marcus Gardner, 26, from Battersea in south London, who arrived at Gatwick Airport after a holiday in Porto, said: ‘We were pretty lucky, to be honest, because we were due to come back today anyway, but I would have been really annoyed if I had to tomorrow or something.

‘Our flight was much busier than before – going there only a few people were on the plane but coming back it was full capacity. A lot of people were rushing to get home and at the airport there were loads of people waiting for a flight.’

Jack Malan, 67, from Sevenoaks, Kent, who was returning from Portugal with his wife, said: ‘Our flight back was 95 per cent full, which wasn’t the case when we flew out there.

‘At the airport there was quite the queue with various checks and I must say it’s abysmal that the Government imposed this regulation so abruptly without warning, it’s very unfair.’

Lisa and Alan Pechey, who live near Cambridge, shelled out £400 each to cut their trip to Sintra short and landed at Gatwick from Porto at 12pm.

While Mr Pechey, 73, is a semi-retired psychology teacher at the Open University, Ms Pechey, 66, works at a private school Wednesday to Friday and could not quarantine if they came back as planned tonight.

She said: ‘We intended to have a week’s break but have had to cut it short. It’s cost £800 between us just to change the flights. Now we need to get the train up to Stansted to collect out car.

‘We went out in good faith with the understanding that it was a green country. Then suddenly it was amber. It was a lot of stress and a lot of expense. And the relaxation was kind of spoilt to say the least.

‘To other holidaymakers, I would say only go if you’ve got the time to quarantine. A quick break between bits of work is impossible at the moment.’

Mr Pechey added: ‘There were big queues at Porto airport with people waiting hours for tests this morning. The only thing we’ve been fortunate with is the fact we did ours online.’

Project manager Juliana Esteves, 36, who lives in East London, paid £700 to return home with son Duarte, four, on the same flight. ‘I don’t understand why we were not given more than four days notice. People will need to get back to work, not quarantine. This makes it impossible for everyone,’ she said.

‘We were visiting family near Porto and planning to come back on Tuesday but had to change everything to get back before the 4am deadline. It cost £700 for me and my son and that was the cheapest one. There were very few options.

‘It is not ideal at all. Surely they can get some extension for the people who are already in Portugal to allow people to get back home. Give us at least a week, please.’

Pictured: Heathrow airport was busy on Monday night as passengers raced to get back to the UK before the rules changed

Pictured: Passengers arrive back into Heathrow Terminal 5 from Portugal ahead of the latest rule change for travelling

Flooring company worker Lopes Manuel, 49, paid £500 to rearrange his flight home to Chingford, East London from Tuesday to today.

He said: ‘They should have given two or three weeks notice. I was meant to fly tomorrow but had to spend £500 to get back without quarantine as I have a business to run here.

‘Just to change the flight for one day. It is way too much money. What difference will 4am on Tuesday make? There is nothing wrong with Portugal. Its all about the money. Its so stupid.’

Triwool fashion company boss Jose Barros, 48, and employee Margarida Amaral, 52, were fortunate their pre-booked flight for a business trip in Central London was planned today. They will fly back home to Porto tomorrow.

Ms Amaral said: ‘Obviously I am not happy about it. We are so lucky that we intended to come today and not tomorrow. We now have to wait another three weeks to see if Portugal is put back on the green list.

‘It is terrible for our country and its tourism. This is a decision made by the UK government and we don’t know why they’ve made it. People on holiday need more notice.’

Mr Barros said: ‘The amber list does not impact this trip fortunately but it means we are unable to meet clients in London in the near future. We simply cannot quarantine back in Porto as we have a business to run.

‘This is our first trip in a year and a half and we usually come every two or three weeks. It looked like we were getting back to normal but maybe not so much now.’

Chevonne Hartshorne, 34, had been visiting her younger sister in Portugal with charity worker husband Jesse, also 34, with their one-year-old son Finley.

The market research worker from Beckenham, Kent, who had planned to come back from Aveiro today, said: ‘When they announced it was on the green list, we booked flights as quickly as possible and happened to very luckily pick to fly back today.

‘It would have been a nightmare quarantining with childcare. I feel so sorry for everyone stuck out there who won’t get home in time but also the people who had been playing to go out there.

‘I would say to anyone wanting to go away this summer, book as soon as it goes on the green list and go as soon as you can. Because things can change so quickly as we’ve seen here.

Just 1.5% of Portugal travellers test positive for Covid: Airlines claim we’ve been led up the garden path, as thousands of Britons race to escape misery of quarantine before country goes on amber list at Tuesday, 4am 

Ministers downgraded Portugal’s travel status from green to amber after just 1.5 per cent of travellers tested positive for Covid over two weeks in a sample, it emerged yesterday.

Three positive cases were spotted out of 200 travellers coming from Portugal between May 6 and May 19.

The positive samples were sent for genomic sequencing for detecting mutant variants, but it is not clear if any were found. The figures were compiled by the Joint Biosecurity Centre for the Government.

JBC data is used by ministers to decide whether countries should be ranked green, amber or red under the Covid traffic light travel system. 

Separate figures showed that, between May 18 and 24, the seven-day rolling average of new Covid cases per 100,000 of Portugal’s population was 30.2. On May 31, the rate in the UK was 35.9. 

‘And also check all of your documents. We thought we had done everything including the tests but we had still missed one form which left us running for the plane in the morning. It’s just so complicated and unclear. For me it was worth it for Finley to see my sister but if it wasn’t for the family trip, I would say it is not worth the hassle.’

DPD delivery driver Daniel Rocha, 34, also counted himself lucky to get home to Crawley, West Sussex without needing to isolate. He had pre-booked to fly to Gatwick today with girlfriend Premier Inn worker Luciana Beaixoto, 29, and son Diego, four.

Mr Rocha said: ‘We were slightly worried about the traffic light system but didn’t let it ruin our trip. I cannot complain as I was lucky. But for the other people in Portugal hoping to come back to England, it is very difficult.

‘I called Luciana and told her to check the news cause they were saying Portugal had gone amber. We were lucky they will bring it in on Tuesday as we would have been stuck if they had done it last night.’

Max Gajadharsingh, 21, from Wiltshire, who runs a drinks company and was spending a week in Portugal on holiday said: ‘I was meant to come back tomorrow, but I heard it was getting bumped up to amber and so had to book a new flight.

‘I had booked with Tap Air Portugal, which have terrible customer service so I just booked a new one with BA.

‘I was lucky because I managed to use my 8,000 avios points and then paid an extra £72.50, but it could have been lot steeper.

‘I had to change my covid test, which was booked for tomorrow morning.

‘I went to Lisbon airport on Saturday morning, but it was fully booked so ended up doing it yesterday morning.

‘After the news Portugal was going on the amber list I went on the BA website to book a new flight.

‘At 1:30pm a BA economy basic ticket was €170, then when I looked at 3:00pm it was €342, an hour later it was €440 and then by 5:20pm it was €542 – then it sold out.

‘I think putting Portugal on the amber list is stupid because when you are there, you have to wear masks even outside if it’s busy.

‘I don’t know what the cases are there, but it seemed fine, except you have a curfew at 10:30pm, so everyone pours out onto the street.

‘Personally, I don’t really care, but it’s frustrating, especially for people who work in an office and have been looking forward to their holiday. I feel really bad for them.’

Taz Mukhtar, 34, from Paddington, West London, who works in financial services said: ‘I just flew in from Portugal where I was working remotely for three weeks.

‘I had to change my flight because I was due to come back on Wednesday so I would have had to quarantine.

‘I didn’t fancy staying in my house for ten days and I have work tomorrow, so I didn’t really have a choice.

‘I had to pay £215 because the fare had gone up seeing as everyone was racing to get back before the rules changed.

‘I already had a covid test booked for today which I had to change and that was difficult actually.

‘Thursday was a public holiday in Portugal so everything was closed – I had to wake up early on Friday – 7:30am, and go to the clinic.

‘Originally, when I flew out there, they had just launched the traffic light system and so I knew it was risky. I feel like the goal posts have moved slightly, but I accept that things are not certain and can always change.

‘I wasn’t in the Algarve where there seems to be all the problems, I was Lisbon. I probably won’t get any of the money back.’

Bjorn Zuber, 39, from Kent, who works in finance and is travelling with his wife and two kids said: ‘We were in Portugal for two weeks and had always planned to come back today, so we were lucky.

‘But we have some friends who are still out there and they were meant to come back on Wednesday.

‘They had to rebook their flights because they have jobs on and couldn’t afford to quarantine.

‘I think they ended up spending €1,100 just on new flights and are supposed to be flying in this evening. They also had to reschedule their pre departure covid test which was a nightmare.

‘The most stressful thing is not knowing what you need and what you don’t need.

‘Going out we needed four covid tests, but then getting on the plane we only needed two and now only three of us need to test on day two.

‘Adding Portugal to the amber list makes no sense at all, because there is only a spike in Lisbon.’

Speaking to the BBC this morning, vaccine centre volunteer Angela Mantana said she got news of the sudden decision just one day after getting to Portugal and now has to quarantine for 10 days at home because she was unable to get PCR tests or ‘suitable’ flights back to the East Midlands. It means she cannot provide jabs at her local centre, or provide her aunt – who is shielding – her daily medication. 

Asked how difficult it has been to get back to the UK, she said: ‘It’s almost been impossible. We arrived on the Wednesday, on the Thursday we were notified it had gone to amber and immediately we started looking for flights and tests. There were no tests available and the flights weren’t suitable to get us back to the East Midlands.

‘We got our original test booked in, but because other people had obviously been trying there was nothing available. It leaves us that we’ve got to finish the holiday and then go into quarantine when we come back. 

‘The implications are we are volunteers at a vaccine centre and on the Friday when we return we were supposed to be going in so we’ve had to let those people down. Equally I shield an auntie who has severe medical conditions who I see on a daily basis to apply medication and I’m not going to be able to do that.

‘We can joke about it, but you arrive one day and the next day we’re planning to get home.’   

One British traveller, Mike Indian described ‘chaotic’ scenes at Faro Airport and having to push past other travellers after officials told him he would need to run to make his flight to London Luton.  

He told Radio 4’s Today programme he managed to board the plane with just five minutes to spare. 

Some 20,000 passengers departing from Faro at the weekend had to pay exorbitant prices to buy PCR tests so they can fly back from Portugal ahead of the 10-day quarantine deadline.  

With PCR tests costing £125 each, a family-of-four can expect to fork out £1,000 for tests for which they have not budgeted – meaning the Government’s sudden decision is putting hundreds of people out of pocket. 

And testing labs are facing an ‘overwhelming’ surge in demand for PCR testing which is causing holidaymakers to miss flights as test results are delayed or lost. According to Ross Tomkins, managing director of PCR test provider Salutaris People, testing capacity is on the ‘verge of collapse’. 

‘It is clear to see that the laboratories are overwhelmed with the sheer volume of testing kits being sent in by airline passengers eager to get away on holiday,’ he said. ‘As a result of this, the labs are losing test kits or mixing up test results, while others are being delayed and a large percentage are coming back with ‘unclears.’

‘Not only is this frustrating for airline passengers, but it’s also costly having to take secondary testing. It is also creating chaos and anxiety for airline passengers when all they want to do is jump on a plane and take a holiday. This is only going to get worse, rather than better, and will lead to many disappointed holidaymakers and airline passengers, whose plans could be seriously affected.’ 

Left: Triwool fashion company boss Jose Barros, 48, and employee Margarida Amaral, 52, were fortunate their pre-booked flight for a business trip in Central London was planned today. They will fly back home to Porto tomorrow. Right: DPD delivery driver Daniel Rocha, 34, also counted himself lucky to get home to Crawley, West Sussex without needing to isolate

Marcus Gardaner, 26, who lives in Battersea in south west London, arrives at Gatwick Airport, West Sussex

UK passengers arrive at Heathrow Terminal 5 from Portugal after dashing home to avoid having to quarantine at home

Yet official data now shows that just 1.5 per cent of British travellers tested positive for coronavirus over two weeks in a sample – just three positive cases spotted out of 200 people coming from Portugal in mid-May. 

The travel industry reacted with fury to the JBC data last night, saying it was proof of the very low risk posed by people arriving from Portugal and that the country should have stayed green.

The Government’s sudden decision to downgrade Portugal to amber instantly wiped £2billion off the value of airlines, while travel industry chiefs warned that it risked creating a jobs bloodbath and wrecking the already devastated sector. 

Figures compiled by the all-party Future of Aviation group of MPs projected that the cost to the economy could be as much as £11.5billion in outbound travel alone if the current restrictions remain through the next three months. 

British Airways owner IAG, easyJet, Ryanair, TUI, Wizz Air and engine maker Rolls-Royce all suffered heavy falls as news spread that no countries would be added to the green list. And package holiday giant Jet2 cancelled all foreign holidays until July 1 – three days after the next review of the green list is due.  

The Department for Transport said the situation in the country ‘required swift action to protect the gains made with the vaccine rollout’. It stated that the positivity rate for coronavirus tests in Portugal had nearly doubled since the travel lists were first created four weeks earlier.

The DfT added that 68 cases of the Indian mutation, which is also known as the Delta variant, have been identified in Portugal. But separate Test and Trace figures show just three out of 200 arrivals from Portugal tested positive between May 6 and May 19.  

British travellers are seen arriving in Heathrow Terminal 5 from Portugal after dashing home to avoid a 10-day quarantine

UK tourists form long queues in departures in Faro Airport, in the Algarve, Portugal as they try to get back to the UK 

Passengers wearing face masks form queues in Faro Airport as they try to get to the UK before Portugal is made amber

It comes as daily coronavirus cases rose 65 per cent in a week to 5,341, while 33,496 cases were recorded over the last seven day – an increase of 11,022, or nearly 50 per cent, on the previous week. Deaths fell in a week from six to four

British holidaymakers reveal how they have cut their family holidays to Portugal short in order to avoid quarantine in UK 

Changing rules at will? It feels wrong 

Karen Beddow (pictured with her husband Matthew and daughters Lily, Isobel and Eve) said she felt let down after being forced to cut her family holiday to Portugal short in order to avoid quarantine on return to the UK

Karen Beddow said she felt let down after being forced to cut her family holiday to Portugal short in order to avoid quarantine on return to the UK.

She had travelled to a villa in the Algarve with her husband Matthew, their three daughters and her parents last month. Mrs Beddow, 43, from the Wirral in Cheshire, said the family was due to fly back to the UK on Tuesday just hours after the new ‘amber list’ restrictions take effect.

Faced with the prospect of additional testing and quarantine, and fearing Portugal was likely to go on the list, she scrambled to rearrange the flights to Sunday before the official announcement was made yesterday.

Although able to change the Easyjet flights for her immediate family for free, her parents faced a sizeable fee to make the changes. 

Mrs Beddow said the family also had to rearrange pre-booked Covid tests to be taken on their return to the UK in line with Government rules.

She said: ‘We cut our holiday short by two days which I actually feel really annoyed about. Not because of us but because my parents decided to change their flights as well.

‘I feel really let down because the whole thing about this green list was to give people certainty. We were told there would be three weeks’ notice.

‘Obviously, what they actually mean is three weeks’ notice of countries coming on the list, not coming off. I certainly felt that if we went away we could have two weeks and have a window. If they are going to change flights at will that just feels wrong.

‘It’s all very stressful having to fix this as well. We had an afternoon of faffing and sorting out.’

Mrs Beddow, a travel blogger, and her husband, a 47-year-old property developer, spent £665 on travel tests for the couple and their three daughters.

She said that she felt ‘lucky to have made it to Portugal at all’.

I had to cancel my last trip too

Having cancelled a family holiday to Portugal last year, Laura Wolfe faces more disappointment

Having cancelled a family holiday to Portugal last year, Laura Wolfe faces more disappointment.

Her two-week trip to the Algarve with her partner Daniel and sons, aged ten and 16, is now in doubt.

Miss Wolfe, pictured, said the Government’s decision to change the travel status of the country was ‘a complete fiasco’. She said: ‘Part of us is thinking we might just go. We have saved up and are in a position to do it. And we just love it there.

‘But the issue is with the rules, which seem to be changing all of the time, the quarantine and the costs of the testing for four of us.

‘If we do say ‘sod it’ and go, what then happens if the country is placed on the red list?

‘The trip isn’t for another eight weeks so things could change several times before then.’

Although the £6,000 holiday is refundable, the events and marketing worker, from Manchester, said the possibility of cancelling has provoked a lot of anxiety.

Miss Wolfe has had both Covid jabs and her partner is about to get his second. ‘I thought this was part of why we were doing it,’ she said.

‘I know there are a lot of unknowns but if I am double-vaccinated and test negative, how can it not be OK for me to go away?’


Genetic epidemiologist Professor Tim Spector, of King’s College London, slammed ministers and said there is more risk travelling from London to Manchester than going on holiday to Portugal. 

He said: ‘We seem to be slightly more obsessed with these variants than any other country and I think this is probably because we’re leading the world in our genetics in terms of us understanding what these variants are doing. But it’s also creating this slight element of panic and fear, because of these potentials of these variants to do something.

‘But I think if we look at the hard data there’s really been hardly any increase in admissions and death rates are really low because this is getting to be a milder disease. We’ve got to get on with this. We’re not going to get to Covid zero so we need to learn to live with this virus, this milder form, even though it is more transmissible.’

Official figures show Bolton has 355.1 cases per 100,000 people, while Manchester has had a rate of 63.1 new cases per 100,000 people in the past week. By comparison, Portugal had a rate of 65.19 per 100,000 people in the last 14 days.  

Prof Spector added: ‘If you travel from London to Manchester at the moment, it’s a much greater risk than going to Portugal, Spain, Italy, France. Are we protecting the Portuguese from problems? Is it that way around? Because, otherwise, I don’t really get it.’ 

Separate figures showed that, between May 18 and 24, the seven-day rolling average of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 of Portugal’s population was 30.2. On May 31, the rate in the UK was 35.9.

Tim Alderslade, of Airlines UK, said last night: ‘We essentially have a pretend traffic light system. They have ignored their own recommendations and led an entire industry down the garden path. It’s clear that many in Government don’t want international travel this summer. They should have the decency to tell us so we and our passengers can plan accordingly.’ 

Which? Travel editor, Rory Boland said: ‘People understand that the current public health situation will sometimes require changes to the traffic light lists at short notice, but the government needs to be upfront about how the system works so people can make informed decisions about their travel plans.

‘The Government had suggested more notice would be given this summer in moving countries between traffic lights, including the use of a green watchlist, so travellers will be upset that they now face huge bills to try and get home before the quarantine requirements come in.

‘Demand for flights has inevitably soared, and while it’s good to hear airlines are running additional flights to help accommodate this, we cannot see a return of the rip-off fares of last summer when customers trying to get home were held to ransom for huge sums of money.’

Portugal’s downgrading triggered chaos as holidaymakers scrambled to dash home to beat 10-day quarantine rules which kick in at 4am tomorrow. People with bookings to Portugal face the choice of rescheduling for later in the year in the hope it goes green again or seeking refunds.

Seven countries were added to the red list, but no new ones went green. It means that, of the 11 destinations left on the green list, Gibraltar and Iceland are the only ones Britons can realistically visit. Quarantine-free travel is only possible to green countries.

They are also the only ones where ministers say people should go on holiday. The list is reviewed every three weeks, with the next due on June 28.

A Government spokesman said last night: ‘We have taken a cautious approach to our green travel list to protect the country and our vaccination campaign from the threat of Covid-19 variants.’ 

Portuguese premier Antonio Costa criticised Britain for removing the country from its green list. ‘We can’t have this system of instability and changes every three weeks, he told reporters. ‘It isn’t good for those who plan their holidays, nor for those who have to organise the tourism industry to receive tourists in good conditions.’

He added Portugal was maintaining dialogue with the UK to ‘explain the decision is not justified and also the serious damage it causes to the British and to the Portuguese economy.’ 

Portugal’s tourism chief Luis Araújo also condemned the UK’s decision to remove the country from green travel status and insisted all necessary precautions had been taken to ensure the safety of visitors. ‘We are extremely disappointed to hear that the UK government has made the decision to remove Portugal from the green list,’ he said.

‘We fully maintain and stress unwavering confidence in the safety of the nation and thank the support of all our partners and friends in the UK, especially our trading partners that have been essential in quickly reinstating flight capacity into Portugal.

‘Our country is open and prepared to welcome any tourist and we have taken all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our visitors and residents.’   

It came as more details emerged of the furious Cabinet clash between Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps over the decision. 

Mr Hancock is said to have been the driving force behind ministers’ decision to ignore JBC advice that Malta and a list of other islands should be added to the green list. He is also said to have rejected the idea that Portugal should be put on a ‘watchlist’ rather than immediately turned amber. 

The watchlist option acts as an early warning sign, designed to give people more time to return home before a country goes fully amber if the coronavirus data gets worse.

Mr Hancock was said to have been backed by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and the Home Office, who also opposed Malta being added to the green list. One Whitehall source claimed ministers had a ‘massive barney’.  

Tory MPs reacted with fury last night after Mr Hancock said he was ‘absolutely open’ to delaying so-called ‘Freedom Day’ on June 21 if coronavirus data turned ‘bad’ this week.

The Health Secretary refused to rule out keeping face masks and home working beyond late June, when the Government had hoped to remove all legal limits on social contact.

Mr Hancock said the unlocking could be pushed back if the data called for it, amid suggestions there could be a two-week delay. But his downbeat comments triggered anger among senior backbenchers. 

Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne said ministers were ‘wasting the advantages afforded by the success of vaccinations’. He added: ‘The original mission statement was to save lives by protecting the NHS. We’ve done that.

‘The more it moves the goalposts, the more people will be made redundant.’

Measures including face masks, social distancing and working from home are likely to remain in place past June 21 due to lingering concern over the Indian variant.

The Government has said it will decide on whether or not to extend the current restrictions beyond June 21 a week today. Sources told the Telegraph the decision hinged on the impact of the Indian variant on hospitalisations. 

A source told the newspaper: ‘The scientists are more in favour of a two-week extension and that is certainly one of the options that has been put in the papers for ministers.’

It reported that the Government was concerned over a faster-than expected increase in Covid cases. But sources said the absence of a spike in hospitalisations would reassure ministers when making the decision next week. 

Former Tory Cabinet minister David Jones said last night: ‘Matt Hancock has acknowledged that most people in hospital [with Covid-19] have not been vaccinated. 

‘The answer is therefore to get as many people as possible vaccinated as quickly as possible. It is not to delay the lifting of lockdown, with the attendant damage to people’s mental and physical wellbeing and to the economy.’

Former Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers called on the Government to ‘give us as much freedom as possible’ – with priority given to weddings, events and hospitality.

She said that while ‘most people’ could live with face coverings and some travel restrictions, ‘we’ve got to allow the hospitality business to open up again fully’.

Senior Tory MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said there was ‘increasing frustration’ among his colleagues over the restrictions. 

He added: ‘We’ve got to be really, really careful about getting panicked about every variant that comes along until we are absolutely sure there is one that is going to defeat the vaccine.’

The MPs’ warnings were echoed by UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls, who said the ‘ongoing uncertainty’ was causing ‘significant distress’ to the sector, especially as ‘healthcare data does not indicate a need for deviation’.

The evidence ‘demonstrates that the vaccination programme is working and breaking the link between cases and hospitalisations and deaths’, she said.

‘It is crucial that the Government commits to dropping the restrictions on June 21. Any delay in the roadmap would have a devastating effect on an already fragile sector.’ 

While UK cases have been rising in recent weeks, fuelled by the Indian variant, hospital admissions have remained flat. Official data shows that Britons who have received two vaccine doses make up less than 5 per cent of those hospitalised with the new strain. 

And around two-thirds of people attending A&E with the variant do not even need to spend the night in hospital. Another 5,341 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus were recorded in the UK yesterday and a further four deaths were announced, down from six a week earlier.

Mr Hancock was asked yesterday whether the removal of restrictions on June 21 could be postponed if data on the Indian variant worsens. We are absolutely open to doing that if that’s what needs to happen,’ he told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show.

‘We said in the roadmap that June 21 is the date by which we would not take step four before that date and that we would look at the data. That is exactly what we are doing.’

Asked if the wearing of face coverings and work-from-home measures could continue in the long-term, the Health Secretary added: ‘Yes, I wouldn’t rule that out.’

Ministers will assess data this week ahead of an announcement, expected next Monday, on whether to proceed with the unlocking the following week.

Labour yesterday signalled it could support some restrictions remaining in place. 

Education spokesman Kate Green said: ‘If we have to maintain some protective measures beyond June 21, that is what the Government should do, but I think it is really important that it’s a decision taken on the basis of the data.’

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Munira Wilson urged ministers to ‘remain cautious, especially given rising case numbers, and to follow the evidence before making a final decision about opening up’.

Are you flying from Portugal back to the UK today? Email us – [email protected] 

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