Lisbon, Jun 7 (EFE) – Thousands of British tourists thronged the airport of Faro airport, the capital of the Algarve, today to return home before Portugal is taken off Boris Johnson’s government’s green list to avoid a mandatory quarantine in the UK.
Some 20,000 Britons left the Algarve – their main destination in Portugal – over the weekend and several thousand more will do so today on the 30 flights scheduled from the airport of Faro, the Algarve’s capital, to different destinations in Britain.
London rectified and removed Portugal from the “green list” just three weeks after putting it on the list on the grounds that 68 cases of the Indian variant of covid have been identified.
From the early hours of Tuesday morning, Portugal will be placed on London’s “amber” list, which requires visitors to undergo two PCRs – on the second and eighth day – after arriving in the UK and to be confined for 10 days.
The influx of Britons has overwhelmed the laboratories in the Algarve and the rapid testing services at Faro airport, where thousands of people have had to wait several hours before being allowed to board the plane.
Images posted by users on social networks show the airport lounges crowded and hundreds of travellers crowded with their luggage without keeping the safety distance.
Many have reported to local media that they have missed their flights due to a glitch in the British platform that offered an essential online form to return home.
Amid the chaos, ticket prices have soared. British Airways, for example, is offering a Faro-London flight for up to 400 euros today, while it drops to 120 euros by the end of the week; Easy Jet’s ticket drops from 233 euros to 42 euros as of Wednesday.
Hotel rates in the Algarve are also significantly lower from today than the prices advertised for these dates.
JOHNSON’S SETBACK FOR PORTUGAL
London’s decision punishes the Portuguese tourism sector, which had hoped that the return of British tourism would facilitate the recovery after the collapse in 2020 caused by the pandemic.
However, the president of Algarve Tourism, João Fernandes, does not lose hope: “During the weekend approximately 20,000 Britons left for the UK, but at the same time about 6,000 came back, which is also a good sign of confidence in the Algarve,” he said in an interview with Efe.
Fernandes avoids quantifying the losses that this setback will entail and prefers to focus on the alternatives to the British market among its European neighbours.
“Normally we have 6 million overnight stays in hotels in the Algarve from the British, 1.8 million from the Germans and approximately 1 million from the Spanish, Dutch, Irish and French,” he said.
“We were counting on the British market, it’s a huge disappointment,” Elidérico Viegas, president of the Association of Hotels and Tourism Enterprises of the Algarve (Aheta), admitted to Efe.
The businessman describes the decision as “totally unfounded and unjustified” given the Algarve’s good results in controlling the pandemic and believes that “we are paying a little for the fact that Lisbon has the highest number of infections and affects the national average”.
AN AVERAGE THAT IS NOT JUSTIFIED
For Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa, there is no justification. “The measure is not justified” and causes “serious harm” even to the British.
Nor do Portuguese experts believe that the 68 cases of the Indian variant in Portugal warrant such a decision, considering the pandemic figures in both countries.
Portugal, with a population of 10 million, has 17,036 deaths and 853,034 cases of covid to date. The UK, with a population of 66 million, has 4.5 million cases and 128,000 deaths.
Costa believes the UK’s formula of reviewing its “green list” every three weeks creates “instability” and advocates letting London join the EU’s digital green certificate.
The storm provoked by Johnson surprises Portugal at a time when the controversy over the excesses allowed to British fans who attended the Champions League final in Porto is still raging. EFE
source: porto airport