Why has Portugal been taken off the green list? What happens if I booked a holiday?

3 June 2021, 18:20 | Updated: 3 June 2021, 22:14

Tourists enjoy Porto de Mos Beach in Lagos, Portugal
Tourists enjoy Porto de Mos Beach in Lagos, Portugal. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Portugal will be removed from the UK's green travel list amid concerns of a new coronavirus mutation and rising cases.

The holiday hotspot, including the islands of Madeira and the Azores, will be put on the amber list following a meeting between Westminster and the devolved governments, as well as the Joint Biosecurity Centre.

Here's everything you need to know:

What is happening with Portugal?

Portugal will be moved from green to amber on the UK’s travel list.

Although there is no law prohibiting people from travelling to an amber list country for a holiday, the government is urging people not to do so.

People returning to the UK from Portugal will now be required to self-isolate at home for 10 days as part of coronavirus restrictions.

EXPLAINED: Which countries can Brits travel to after Portugal lost its green list status?

Why has it moved and when does it become amber?

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has raised concern of a so-called Nepal coronavirus mutation of the Delta variant - also known as the Indian variant - in Portugal, while he also pointed to rising cases.

Mr Shapps said: "I want to be straight with people, it's actually a difficult decision to make, but in the end we've seen two things really which caused concern.

"One is the positivity rate has nearly doubled since the last review in Portugal and the other is there's a sort of Nepal mutation of the so-called Indian variant which has been detected."

He added: "We just don't know the potential for that to be vaccine-defeating mutation and simply don't want to take the risk as we come up to June 21 and the review of the fourth stage of the unlock."

Read more: Travel sector reacts furiously to Portugal's removal from green list

The Department for Transport said in a statement that the decision "follows increased concern in the spread of variants of coronavirus, including a mutation of the Delta variant, and the risk that is posed of bringing these back to the UK if people are not required to quarantine".

It added: "The situation in Portugal has required swift action to protect the gains made with the vaccine rollout – there has been an almost doubling in the Covid-19 test positivity rate in Portugal since the first review for traffic light allocations, far exceeding the ONS estimated national positivity rate in the UK.

"More significantly, according to data published on GISAID, 68 cases of the Delta Variant of Concern have been identified in Portugal, including cases of the Delta variant with an additional, potentially detrimental, mutation."

The government has previously said assessments of travel lists are based on a range of factors, including the proportion of a population that has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants, and access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.

All changes to the lists will come into effect at 4am on Tuesday 8 June.

Read more: Portugal decision due to 'Nepal variant' but WHO 'unaware' of strai

How long was it on the green list and how many Brits travelled?

It is only 17 days since non-essential leisure travel has been permitted from Britain, with Portugal being the only viable major tourist destination added to the green list.

In that time thousands of Brits have travelled, including for the Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea in Porto.

Fans who attended that match have since been asked to self-isolate after multiple flights reported passengers testing positive for coronavirus.

What do I do if I booked and want to cancel?

Although online travel firm On the Beach has stopped selling summer holidays due to a lack of "certainty or clarity", many companies are selling and operating trips to amber countries.

Most travel companies are refusing refunds due to countries being added to the amber list, although some firms, including Exodus, Kuoni and easyJet Holidays, have been praised by consumer group Which? for their flexible policies.

What do I do if I can't get home before it moves to amber?

Many holidaymakers in Portugal face a scramble for flights home before the move is introduced.

However, if they fail to do so they will be required to self-isolate at home for 10 days upon their return as part of coronavirus restrictions.