Brit travellers rage as Portugal demoted to amber list forcing early return or quarantine and buy £1K of Covid tests
BRITS on holiday in Portugal have been plunged into chaos and face having to fork out thousands of pounds for Covid tests as the country moves to the UK's 'amber list' next week.
The government has sent thousands of people's travel plans up in smoke by advising Brits not to go to the popular destination – and making returning passengers self-isolate from 4am on Tuesday.
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Travellers returning from Portugal and other amber list countries will be required to take a pre-departure PCR Covid test and provide a negative result.
They will then have to pay for a further two tests on days two and eight of their 10-day quarantine.
Brits can opt for private Covid test providers, which can cost between £120 and £300 per person – or slightly cheaper options are available from Boots and Superdrug.
Airlines and tour operators have started offering discounted rates – with the three tests through TUI costing £60 per person.
It means a family four could be spending anywhere between £240 and £1,200 to fly home – plus parents potentially taking 10 days off work.
But those currently in Portugal claim there is a two to three-day waiting list for tests because centres are "overloaded" – meaning some people may be forced to splash out on pricey private services to ensure they make it home in time.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO of Advantage Travel Partnership, today said Portugal being added to the amber travel list just weeks after the holiday hotspot reopened for British tourists was a "devastating blow".
She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Clearly yesterday was an absolute blow, an absolute devastating blow for consumers and the industry of a really seismic scale now."
Asked if she feels the Government has let the industry down, she said: "Absolutely. I mean, the Government has completely moved the goal-posts from us overnight with no notice at all."
Ms Lo Bue-Said said there was a lack of communication to enable the industry to put the right systems in place, adding that the move damages confidence.
"It now throws confidence completely out of the window, because if we can see something like Portugal that was on a green list move to amber within, sort of, you know, 90, 100 hours notice or whatever it is, what's going to happen if I make further plans?
"It puts the industry in a really difficult position and consumers in a difficult position in order to be able to plan effectively," she said.
Brits are now making a mad dash to get back before the country is demoted to the UK's banned amber list on June 8.
Portugal was today relegated from its green status after ministers sounded the alarm about a worrying new "Nepal mutation" of the Indian variant detected in the holiday hotspot.
Confirming Britain's "difficult but decisive decision" – first revealed by The Sun – Grant Shapps warned 68 cases of the Indian "Delta" variant had been identified in Portugal.
They include cases of the emerging Nepal mutation – and the minister said it was currently unclear if vaccines were effective against the strain.
Travellers described chaotic scenes at Portuguese airports as people race to make it home before the new rules come into force next week.
Sarah Vowles, who was waiting to fly from Faro to Luton, said EasyJet was "very poorly organised".
She added: "Have been waiting in the bag drop queue for the Luton flight for an hour and a half.
"We're supposed to be boarding in 10 minutes. 2 desks for 2 flights not good enough!"
John Joyce and his family decided to book a holiday to Portugal as soon as Britain added it to the green list of foreign destinations around three weeks ago as he "needed a little break".
But he described the British government's latest move as "a bit unfair", adding: "There are families bringing out kids and people who booked their holidays already, and the stress involved for people, including myself."
A British bar owner on the Algarve said he is "absolutely devastated" by the decision.
Gary Search, who runs Fat Cats and Fat Cats on the Marina – both in the popular holiday resort of Albufeira – said: "One of the bars is 98 per cent British tourists and in the other about 50 per cent of our customers are Brits who are also mostly holidaymakers."
He said the bars had "literally just got off the ground" after "scrabbling around all week" but the news has "messed things right up" for his businesses.
Gary, originally from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, added: "We had our finger on the pulse and were more or less aware of what was going on but we really didn’t think it would happen.
"For everyone in the Algarve, not just us but also the tourists, it’s a complete nightmare."
The 54-year-old said the last week had "been like a summer for the first time since 2019", but all that is about to change.
He continued: "I think the problem for people even if they try to scrabble around for flights back home before the new rules kick in and they have to quarantine is going to be that they’re tied to having Covid tests before they go and there’s a two to three-day waiting lists because the Covid test centres here are overloaded.
"People need a Covid test to go home so they’re not going to get it till Saturday or Sunday at the earliest which makes it impossible for those who can to rearrange their flights.
"Portugal has been the only major European holiday destination on the green list and we are in a very tourist area in Albufeira.
"Now [business] is going to go down to literally nothing again, probably just a couple of hundred quid a day I would imagine, and people are going to disappear this weekend. It’s a disaster."
Charlotte Cheddle, a 22-year-old from England, will have to quarantine for 10 days when she flies back next week.
"It's silly," she said. "We made an effort to get tested privately. We paid for everything and we have done everything to make it safe."
She urged the British government to either "ban international travel completely or communicate properly with people".
Portuguese officials have also slammed the country's demotion, describing it as "very unfair".
After the announcement was made public, Portugal's Ministry for Foreign Affairs tweeted: "We take note of the British decision to remove Portugal from its ‘green’ travel list, a decision whose logic is difficult to grasp."
Eduardo Jesus, the Regional Secretary for Culture and Tourism of Madeira, said: "We are already reacting with the British government, presenting a set of arguments we believe are valid, and pointing out that this decision is totally incorrect for Madeira, inadequate and above all, very unfair."
And the president of the Algarve Tourist Board, Joao Fernandes, described the UK's decision to downgrade Portugal from green to amber as a "severe setback".
As well as those stuck in Portugal, thousands of Brits with getaways booked in the coming weeks now face the challenge of trying to reschedule their trip or getting their money back.
Twitter is flooded with requests for refunds and rebookings as people are left in limo over when it will next be safe to travel.
And further complications could arise if the Foreign Office alters its stance and advises against visiting Portugal, which would invalidate travel insurance.
The Department for Transport has previously warned that Brits should be wary that countries can be taken off the green list with little notice – which could spark holiday chaos over the summer months.
Assessments on whether a country is on the red, amber or green list are based on a range of factors, including the proportion of a population that has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants, and access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.
Portugal has lifted most of its lockdown restrictions, and the government was heavily criticised for allowing thousands of mainly maskless English football fans to party in Porto during the Champions League final last weekend.
The country of just over 10 million people reported 769 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, the highest daily increase since early April. Total infections now stand at 851,031.
Portugal moving to the UK's amber list is a huge blow for the country's tourism sector, which represents a significant chunk of GDP and has Britain as one of its biggest foreign markets.
"It's not great for businesses but slowly we will get there – or at least I really hope so because our economy is down," said restaurant manager Ana Paula Gomes in Lisbon.
The head of the hotels' association in the touristy Algarve region, Eliderico Viegas, said Britain's move would hit the sector like a "bucket of cold water".
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