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HOLIDAYS to Portugal are safe for at least a week, ministers announced tonight after keeping the country on the quarantine-free list.
It comes after many holidaymakers booked flights home costing up to £554 to avoid having to quarantine amid expectations they would be added to the travel list this weekend.
Cases in Portugal hit 23 cases per 100,000 people on Wednesday – exceeding the benchmark of 20 that has triggered other countries to be added to the quarantine list.
But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defied expectations to make no changes to the current travel rules.
The rules are different in Scotland, where arrivals must quarantine for a fortnight after Nicola Sturgeon put the country back on the list earlier this week.
And to add more confusion, Wales added mainland Portugal and six Greek islands to its quarantine list from 4am tomorrow.
Tourists returning to Wales from Mykonos, Zakynthos, Lesvos, Paros and Antiparos and Crete will have to quarantine.
Announcing the decision not to make any changes to the rules, Mr Shapps tweeted: « We continue to keep the Travel Corridor list under constant review & won’t hesitate to remove countries if needed.
« Nonetheless, holidaymakers are reminded – 14-day quarantine countries can & do change at very short notice ».
He added: « Travel Corridor factors taken into account by JBC & Ministers inc: COVID-19 prevalence; level & rate of change; extent of in-country tests, regime & test positivity; extent of contained outbreak as opposed to general transmission; govt actions & other epidemiological information. »
Melani Berman tweeted: « Thanks for leaving Portugal alone, long may it last… I need my holiday in the LOW risk Algarve at the end of the month, booked last year. Infection rates in the Algarve acknowledged to be very low. »
However, other Brits were furious after they booked flights home for today amid the speculation that Portugal was to be removed from the travel corridor.
One Twitter user wrote: « Mate just landed at Gatwick paid £550. Was due back Saturday his kids all in tears as they cut short the holiday. »
But former PM Tony Blair warned that the uncertainty over quarantine rules was « killing » international travel.
Calling for the blanket 14-day quarantine rules to be ditched, he told BBC Two’s Newsnight: “I don’t think it’s necessary to do 14 day quarantine when you come back into the country. That is if you want literally zero risk.”
This comes as Scotland is set to add Portugal to its quarantine list this weekend, according to BBC Scotland.
This means that travellers arriving into Scotland from Portugal will potentially have to isolate for 14 days.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock poured cold water on the prospect of ever introducing coronavirus testing at airports – declaring: « It doesn’t work ».
He dismissed calls for airport arrivals to be tested when they land, saying that only 7 per cent of people with positive cases would be caught.
People still need to quarantine for 14 days to make sure they aren’t carrying the bug and passing it on as it incubates inside the body for so long, he stressed.
« That is that the virus incubates in you and therefore if you test on day one on return, the scientists reckon you find only about seven per cent of the total cases.
He added: « In fact, the countries around the world that have introduced these tests on arrival are now moving away from it and doing the testing much later. »
Heathrow has already unveiled a coronavirus testing centre that could cut the quarantine down – but ministers have yet to back the policy.
It was reported last month that the Government were looking at a dual testing scheme which would test some on arrival and then the rest several days into their isolation.
It would be able to tell if they’d picked up the bug and had to isolate further, or they were negative and could be released from quarantine.
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