Portugal hits out at exclusion from government’s ‘safe’ destinations list

Portugal has criticised the UK government’s decision to leave its country off its list of ‘safe’ destinations.

Portuguese government and tourism officials have spoken out about the move following the UK government’s publication of countries from which return to England will not involve a 14-day quarantine from July 10.

Other countries also excluded from the government’s ‘safe’ destination list include the US, Sweden, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, China, and the Maldives.

And while Portugal is not included on the list, Madeira and the Azores appear on a separate Foreign Office list of 67 destinations to which the FCO no longer advises against all but essential travel.

In an official statement, Luis Araújo, president of the Portuguese Tourism Board, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the UK government’s decision to omit Portugal from the air bridge agreement, and said there were confusing, mixed messages in the latest advice.

He said: “The reality in Portugal is totally different from the one portrayed by this decision. We fully maintain and stress unwavering confidence in the safety of the nation to welcome back international visitors.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Portuguese government and tourism industry has worked tirelessly to implement a carefully strategised and thoroughly actioned protocol for the tourism industry and wider society.

“From our viewpoint, the entire national territory should have been appropriately included in the UK travel corridor owing to the successful containment of the outbreak.”

He added that Portugal had received widespread praise across Europe for its handling of the pandemic. It was the first European destination to receive the ‘Travel Safe’ stamp from the World Travel & Tourism Council.

Since the start of May, the number of hospitalisations in intensive care units has halved, overall hospitalisation is down 60%, deaths down 70%, and active cases at just 13,060 for the entire nation, he said.

He said: “It’s important to understand that the Portuguese tourism industry has been in operation for several weeks now, welcoming guests from around the world – entirely safely. British citizens are still able to visit Portugal.”

He added that the UK government’s mixed messages on travel to Madeira and the Azores was confusing for holidaymakers.  “We have to remain completely honest when voicing our bewilderment at such a decision and confusing message,” he said.

Madeira has had no recorded deaths since the beginning of the pandemic and has not seen an active case reported since June 21. The Azores Islands represents just 0.4% of Portuguese cases since the beginning of the pandemic and has only three cases in total.

He also stressed the Algarve had reported just 1.5% of Portuguese cases the start of the pandemic and Alentejo, 1.1%.

The BBC has also reported Portugal’s foreign affairs minister Augusto Santos Silva as calling the UK’s decision “senseless and unfair”. He said: “It is quite absurd the UK has seven times more cases of Covid-19 than Portugal so we think this is not the way in which allies and friends are treated.”

The Portugal News, the country’s national newspaper in English, quoted João Fernandes, president of the Algarve Regional Tourism board, calling the move to exclude Portugal a “mistake”.

He told the newspaper: “It is a decision that we regret and do not understand in light of the facts. We consider the decision to be deeply unfair and penalises the country in general and the Algarve in particular.”

He added that 68% of overnight tourist hotel stays in the Algarve between July and September were by Brits.

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