Holidaymakers who thought they could safely travel to Portugal have been given 108 hours to return to the UK or face self-isolation when they return.
In a complete U-turn of the government’s stated intention of giving warning of a country moving from the quarantine-free “green list” to the “amber list”, the only substantial European nation on the low-risk register will lose its green status at 4am on Tuesday 8 June.
Dayna Brackley is a consultant who lives in London, has two children at home aged 4 and 6 and is meant to be doing the school run on Wednesday: “It all feels like a last minute scramble – I’m meant to be flying home on Tuesday afternoon and taking my kids to school on Wednesday morning.
“If it changes to amber from Tuesday morning, I’ll have to try and get someone else to do the school run while I isolate for 10 days and do all my work via Zoom again, including some important meetings – I’d only just gotten used to doing them in person again. I was also supposed to be going to the theatre with my kids to see The Smartest Giant in Town at the Little Angel in Islington on Sunday, and they’ll be really disappointed.”
Katy Daly, a teacher at a state primary school in Essex, is meant to be in class on Wednesday at 8.30am. She also has two children aged 12 and 14 at home, and is flying back to London on Tuesday afternoon, hours after the amber list cut-off.
“My school will have to find cover for my classes and all my students until I’m out of isolation. I’ll also have to pay extra to do a ‘test to release’ after five days to minimise the disruption to my school and to my class. It’ll be expensive and disruptive to their education.”
Holidaymakers and the travel industry had expected that any green list location would first be placed on a “green watchlist” – with at least a week’s notice given for holidaymakers to return home and others booked to travel to defer or cancel their trips.
Instead, airlines and holiday companies will scramble to try to move travellers back to the UK – and write off any prospect of operating profitably in June.
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “The public has always known travel will be different this year and we must continue to take a cautious approach to reopening international travel in a way that protects public health and the vaccine rollout. “
The government said that Portugal has moved to the amber list because of concern at “a mutation of the Delta variant”.
Seven countries – including the highly popular destinations of Costa Rica, Egypt, Sri Lanka and Trinidad & Tobago – have also been added to the red list, requiring hotel quarantine.
The government says it has been informed by the latest data and analysis by the Joint Biosecurity Centre and “wider public health factors”.
“While we are making great progress in the UK with the vaccine rollout, we continue to say that the public should not travel to destinations outside the green list,” said Mr Shapps.
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