Portugal and Greece remain on England's travel corridor list

3 September 2020, 17:15 | Updated: 4 September 2020, 08:58

A beach in Lagos, Portugal, where people in England can still freely visit
A beach in Lagos, Portugal, where people in England can still freely visit. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Portugal and Greece will remain on England's safe travel corridor, despite Scotland and Wales adding them to their quarantine lists.

It means that holidaymakers will not have to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to England, but will have to remain in their homes if they live the other two nations.

The move has sparked confusion

Speaking with LBC's Nick Ferrari on Friday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "It does created a different set of confusions for people, and it's not unlike the way the lockdown rules have been applied through lockdown.

"There have been four different sets of rules in different parts of the United Kingdom, and then you've got the same thing with this."

But he added he would try and get the devolved governments to come to an agreement with quarantines in an effort to make it simpler for people arriving in the UK from those countries.

Countries are usually added to the list on a Thursday, but the announcement will come as a welcome surprise for those wishing to get away for a warm-weather break in 2020.

Mr Shapps confirmed the news on Twitter, saying there would be "no English additions or removals today".

He also reminded his followers that countries can be removed "at very short notice" and that the list is kept "under constant review".

However, shortly after, the Welsh Government announced that any of its residents returning from mainland Portugal (the Azores and Madeira will remain exempt), Gibraltar, French Polynesia and the Greek islands of Mykonos, Zakynthos, Lesvos, Paros and Antiparos and Crete will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Later in the evening, Scottish Justice Minister Humza Yousaf said anyone returning to Scotland from Portugal or French Polynesia would also need to quarantine for 14 days, while Gibraltar remains "high up" on the nation's watch-list.

Read more: Which countries are exempt and could future changes affect my booking?

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Mr Shapps wrote: "We continue to keep the Travel Corridor list under constant review & won't hesitate to remove countries if needed.

"However, there are no English additions or removals today. Nonetheless, holidaymakers are reminded - 14-day quarantine countries can & do change at very short notice."

The transport secretary said the list is kept under review by both the Joint Biosecurity Centre and ministers.

Factors taken into account include the prevalence of Covid-19 in a country, the level and rate of change, the extent of in-country testing, regime and test positivity, the extent of a contained outbreak as opposed to general transmission in the country, government actions and other epidemiological information.

Meanwhile, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford wrote on Twitter: "We all want to keep Wales safe and prevent the spread of coronavirus. If you’re returning from holiday from one of the Greek islands, mainland Portugal or Gibraltar you’ll need to quarantine. Please help us #KeepWalesSafe."

Mr Yousaf later wrote: "If arriving into Scotland from Portugal or French Polynesia from 4am Sat (5th Sept) you'll have to self-isolate for 14 days. Gibraltar high up our watch list of countries we are monitoring closely. This week's data shows increase in test positivity & cases per 100k in Portugal."

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Despite the positive news for English holidaymakers, the government's announcement has still attracted criticism about how it has affected nervous customers who prematurely decided to book their journeys home.

Rory Boland, the editor of Which? Travel, said: "Days of speculation around this announcement meant many people rushed to pay extortionate prices for flights back to England to avoid having to quarantine on their return – only to now find out there was no need.

"The government knows this, and yet it continues to offer no clarity around how these decisions are made, all while ignoring the growing evidence suggesting this system is not working.

"If the government is serious about letting international travel resume while prioritising public health, a major reassessment of its approach is needed.

"It must also look further ahead to ensuring future travel is protected, and bring in major reforms to restore confidence among holidaymakers who have been let down over this period."

It comes after Switzerland, Jamaica and the Czech Republic were added to the UK's quarantine list last week.

The three countries joined Spain, France, the Netherlands and Croatia in being added to the list following a rise in Covid-19 cases.

Other countries the UK has previously removed from its safe travel corridor list include Austria, Belgium, Monaco, Malta, Trinidad and Tobago and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Brits will not be stopped travelling to any now-exempt countries, but quarantine will be mandatory for anyone returning to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is not advising holidaymakers who are already in the listed countries to leave immediately.

Instead, people are instead being asked to follow local rules, return home as normal and check the travel advice pages on gov.uk for further information.

The FCDO has advised British nationals against "all but essential travel" to the countries on the quarantine list.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said travel insurance will remain valid for people who are already in the quarantined countries until they return home.

However, those who travel to the listed countries after the FCDO advice has changed would "likely" find their insurance invalid, the ABI said.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab previously said no worker following quarantine guidance should be penalised by employers, including by being put onto sick pay.

He said that if someone is following the law in relation to quarantine and self-isolating, "they can't have penalties taken against them".

Mr Shapps previously said a range of factors are taken into account when the Joint Biosecurity Centre and ministers make their assessment of a country's status.

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