Nearly 20 flights carrying British holidaymakers will arrive in Portugal on Monday after the country ended days of uncertainty by lifting its travel ban.
Some 3,000 people a day will travel to Portugal on more than 110 flights over the next week as they exploit its designation by the UK as a “green list” country allowing quarantine-free travel.
Augusto Santos Silva, the foreign affairs minister, announced his government’s decision after days of speculation that it could maintain its travel ban in face of pressure from the EU.
There had been doubts about the prospect of Portugal lifting the ban after it extended its “state of public calamity” on the mainland – the second highest level of alert – for a further 15 days from Monday.
The EU has also advised member nations to maintain a ban on non-essential travel this month, putting Portugal, which holds the EU presidency, in a difficult position if it was to go ahead and allow foreign travel.
However, the prospect of thousands of British holidaymakers boosting its tourist trade appears to have won the day, along with positive Covid data showing a drop by nearly 20 per cent in a week to 49 cases per 100,000 of the population.
It came as Italy said it was scrapping a quarantine requirement for visitors from the EU, Britain and Israel who tested negative for Covid.
The only dark cloud in an otherwise positive holiday sky was Germany’s decision to raise the Covid status of the UK to a “risk” nation because of the growing number of Indian variant cases. People entering Germany from a risk nation need a negative Covid test and have to self-isolate for 10 days but are exempted from these restrictions if fully vaccinated.
From Monday, Portugal becomes one of just 12 countries or territories on the Government’s “green list”. The others include Israel, Gibraltar and Iceland.
BA, EasyJet, Ryanair and TUI have already expanded capacity to meet the demand for holidays in what is the only main European destination not subject to quarantine on return.
Ryanair is putting on 175,000 extra seats while Tui, Britain’s biggest holiday company, has said it will operate wide-bodied long-haul jets to accommodate all its passengers. On Thursday, easyJet said it was adding 25,000 seats.
Mr Santos Silva said anyone arriving from the UK will require a negative PCR test within 72 hours before arrival even if they have been fully vaccinated.
The UK Government has confirmed that the NHS app is ready to be used as a vaccine passport from Monday, with those who do not have access to a mobile phone able to get a paper certificate.
It appears, however, that most countries are not yet in a position to use it as proof of vaccination and travellers may have to wait for the introduction of the EU’s green certification scheme, which will also take account of jabs.
Holidaymakers returning from Portugal or any other “green list” country will also not be able to use free Government lateral flow tests pre-return, despite ministers hoping they could be permitted to in order to reduce the cost. They will also have to pay for a PCR test on arrival back in the UK.
Portugal is hosting the Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester City in Porto on May 29, with 12,000 fans attending. It is understood they have been told they will have to maintain “bubbles” for the duration of their stay.