Portugal questions Amber List decision over concerns over new Covid mutation
Portugal questioned the UK’s decision to place the country on the Orange Travel List, as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps raised concerns over a further mutation of the coronavirus and the increase in cases.
The holiday hotspot, including the islands of Madeira and the Azores, will be removed from the green list exempting the need for quarantine on return from 4 a.m. on Tuesday.
However, a Portuguese ministerial social media account said they “cannot understand” the “logic” of the decision, amid dismayed backlash from the travel industry.
Sri Lanka, Egypt and five other countries will also be added to the red list requiring isolation in a government-approved hotel, it was announced Thursday afternoon.
Shortly after the changes were revealed, the cabinet account of the Portuguese Minister of State for Foreign Affairs tweeted in English: “We take note of the British decision to remove Portugal from the travel ‘green list’, whose logic we cannot understand. .
“Portugal continues to carry out its prudent and progressive deconfinement plan, with clear rules for the safety of those who live here and those who visit us. “
People returning from Portugal to the UK will have to self-isolate at home for 10 days under coronavirus restrictions.
Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Sudan and Trinidad and Tobago will also be placed on the red list, meaning people arriving in the UK from those countries will have to stay in a quarantine hotel for 11 nights.
People returning to the UK from redlisted locations must stay in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £ 1,750 for solo travelers.
No country was added to the green list, despite speculation that some Spanish and Greek islands, as well as Malta, would be added.
In an interview, Mr Shapps said: “I want to be frank with people, it’s actually a tough decision to make, but in the end we saw two things that were really concerning.
“One is that the positivity rate has almost doubled since the last exam in Portugal and the other is that there is some kind of Nepalese mutation of the so-called Indian variant that has been detected and we just don’t know the potential for it to be a vaccine – win over the mutation and I just don’t want to take a risk as June 21 approaches and the consideration of the fourth stage of unlocking.
The news came on the same day the government said 5,274 more laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases had been recorded in the UK at 9 a.m. on Thursday, the highest single-day figure since March 26.
Andrew Flintham, Managing Director of TUI UK Travel Group, called the announcement “another step backwards for our industry”.
He said: “We were reassured that a green watchlist would be created and one week’s notice would be given so that travelers did not have to rush home. They broke that promise.
Heathrow Managing Director John Holland-Kaye added: ‘Ministers have spent the last month welcoming the restart of international travel, only to then shut it down three weeks later, while ensuring another wasted summer for the sector. travel.
“If the government is serious about protecting UK jobs and supporting businesses across the country, swift action is needed to reopen flights to major trading partners, remove testing for vaccinated passengers from ‘green’ countries and reduce the cost and complexity of testing, as other G7 countries are doing.
Many vacationers in Portugal face a rush for return flights before the new rules are introduced.
Labor criticized the “chaos” as reports of the restrictions slipped from the government before official confirmation and travel bosses said the move would cause “untold damage to customer confidence.”
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “Confusion over the ‘orange list’ has led to reports of more than 50,000 people traveling to the UK daily, with only a small percentage entering quarantine in hotels and a flow of flights entering UK “Orange List” countries.
He continued: “Getting Portugal on the ‘Amber List’ is not the solution. The ‘Amber List’ itself should be deleted.
Portugal’s seven-day coronavirus case rate per 100,000 people stands at 37.2, down from 30.7 a week earlier.
The announcement came as Public Health England said the variant of Covid-19 originating in India is now considered dominant in the UK, with early evidence suggesting it could lead to an increased risk of hospitalizations compared to to Kent’s variant.
A total of 12,431 cases of the Indian variant, also known as the Delta variant, have been confirmed in the UK through June 2, according to Public Health England (PHE), an increase of 79% from the previous week’s total of 6,959.
Dr Jeff Barrett, director of the Covid-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said the Nepal mutation (B.1.617.2 with an additional mutation: K417N) of the variant first detected in India (B.1.617 .2), has also been observed in other variants, including the one first identified in South Africa.
He said this “is believed to be part of the reason why this (South African) variant is less well neutralized by vaccines.”
Dr Barrett added that because of this possibility and because the Indian variant appears to be more transmissible than the variant first detected in South Africa, scientists are watching it closely.
He explained that this Indian variant along with the K417N mutation has been seen in many countries, including the UK, Portugal, the US, India, Nepal and Japan.