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Coronavirus: Portugal return to quarantine list would cause ‘chaos and hardship’

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Image copyright Getty Images Image caption In a normal year, more than a million UK tourists visit Portugal’s Algarve coast Holidaymakers will face “chaos and hardship” if coronavirus quarantine measures are reintroduced for those arriving to the UK from Portugal, a travel industry leader has warned.Portugal has recorded 21.1 virus cases per 100,000 people in…

Camilo Beach, Lagos, Portugal

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In a normal year, more than a million UK tourists visit Portugal’s Algarve coast

Holidaymakers will face “chaos and hardship” if coronavirus quarantine measures are reintroduced for those arriving to the UK from Portugal, a travel industry leader has warned.

Portugal has recorded 21.1 virus cases per 100,000 people in the past week.

The UK considers imposing 14 days of isolation on travellers when a country’s infection rate exceeds 20 cases per 100,000, over seven days.

The boss of British Airways’ parent firm said the numbers were “arbitrary”.

It was only on 22 August that Portugal was added to the list of countries that are exempt from UK rules requiring travellers to self-isolate for two weeks, prompting a rise in searches for flights by British holidaymakers.

Writing in the Times, IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said the “ever-changing” quarantine requirements meant “the UK has officially hung up the ‘closed’ sign”.

“Another U-turn by the government, adding Portugal to the quarantine list, will cause further chaos and hardship for travellers,” he said.

“The government is using arbitrary statistics to effectively ban 160 countries and in the process destroying the economy.”

As of 31 August, the UK recorded 24.0 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over the past fortnight while Portugal recorded 35.7, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

There were 21.1 cases per 100,000 people in Portugal in the seven days to 30 August, up from 19.4 in the seven days to 29 August.

So-called travel corridors – which allow people to travel without having to self-isolate on their return – have been scrapped between England and at least 18 countries and territories over the past month, including popular tourist destinations such as France and Spain.

Ministers have said this cautious approach prevents coronavirus cases being imported.

When countries such as Croatia, Austria and Trinidad and Tobago lost their travel corridor status, UK tourists have spent thousands of pounds on new flights and endured long drives in a race to get home before quarantine measures kicked in.

The Department for Transport has not commented on whether requirements for arrivals from Portugal will change in response to the rise in cases.

Travellers to Switzerland, Jamaica and the Czech Republic were the latest to have to self-isolate for two weeks, after a rule change on Saturday.

The UK introduced the compulsory 14-day quarantine for arrivals from overseas in early June.

The following month, the four UK nations unveiled lists of “travel corridors”, detailing countries that were exempt from the rule.

In July, the Portuguese government expressed “regret” at the UK’s decision to continue to exclude it from the safe travel list.

The UK provides the largest number of overseas tourists to Portugal, with more than two million tourists visiting every year.

The Algarve coast is the most popular destination, with 1.2 million visitors from the UK last year.

Are you currently on holiday in Portugal? Have you made plans to travel there? Share your thoughts by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

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