Portugal, including the islands of Madeira and the Azores, is to be removed from the ‘red list’ of countries from where visitors are subject to hotel quarantine restrictions from Friday.
Indian ocean nation Mauritius is also to be moved as of 4am on March 19 in rules that apply only to England.
While arrivals from these countries no longer have to quarantine in government-approved facilities, they do have to self-isolate at home for 10 days, taking Covid tests on day two and day eight after arrival. They can end their quarantine early through the government’s ‘test to release’ policy.
Those who arrive before 4am on Friday will have to complete the 10-day hotel quarantine.
A blanket ban on all non-essential travel from the UK remains in place as part of wider national lockdown rules.
The Department for Transport said the removals come “following evidence that shows the risk of importing a variant of concern from these destinations has reduced”.
Portugal was one of 16 destinations to which travel was banned in January in response to concerns over a new Covid variant originating in Brazil.
The DfT said that Portugal has now “put steps in place to mitigate the risk from its links with countries where variants have become a concern, and now has genomic surveillance in place”.
Four countries, meanwhile, have been added to the ‘red list’, which means travel bans are now in place for visitors from Ethiopia, Oman, Somalia and Qatar from 4am Friday March 19.
British, Irish and third-country nationals with residence rights (including long-term visa holders) arriving from these countries will be subject to hotel quarantine restrictions – and must take a test on days two and eight.
The DfT said the addition of these destinations “follows new data showing an increased risk of importation of variants of concern”, referring to those in South Africa and Brazil.
Visitors who have departed from or transited through these countries in the previous 10 days will be refused entry into England, the DfT confirmed.
A ban on commercial and private aircraft travelling from Oman, Ethiopia and Qatar will also be imposed from 4am Friday, excluding cargo planes.
The government said the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) produces risk assessments of the spread of variants of concern internationally, which include assessment of surveillance and sequencing capability, available surveillance and genome sequencing data, evidence of in-country community transmission of COVID-19 variants, evidence of exportation of new variants to the UK or other countries
More than 58,000 rooms on standby for the government’s hotel quarantine policy.
João Fernandes, president of Algarve Tourism Bureau, said: “We are delighted with the decision to take Portugal off the ‘red list’.
“We have been able to overcome a second wave of coronavirus, to reduce the infections levels to some of the lowest in Europe.
“The Algarve has always been a favourite holiday destination with British holiday makers and this announcement is a hopeful sign that we will soon be able to welcome them back in early summer.”
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