British holidaymakers can breathe a sigh of relief as news has come that Portugal will indeed open up in time for the relaxation of travel bans. The UK is set to allow foreign travel from Monday, May 17th, with countries given a status of red, amber or green. With Portugal one of only a few ‘green list’ countries feasible to travel to, home-weary Brits have been keen to get away in the coming weeks. However, although the country will open, a pre-travel PCR test will be required.
Portugal confirms it is open to the UK
Until this morning, Portugal still hadn’t rescinded its ban on visitors from foreign countries. Just yesterday, it extended what it calls its ‘state of calamity’ for a further 15 days, which could have meant UK residents being blocked from entry until at least May 30th.
However, in the last couple of hours, the Portuguese tourism authority, Visit Portugal, has issued a statement indicating that the country will indeed open to British visitors from Monday onwards. In Visit Portugal’s statement, the authority said,
“The Portuguese Minister of State for Foreign Affairs announced today that British tourists will be allowed to enter Portugal as of 00:00 of 17th May, next Monday. This decision will revoke the essential travel restrictions that is in place until the 16ht of May. Any person entering Portugal will have, in any case, to have an RT-PCR test done 72h before the departure.
“With an air capacity from at least 12 airports in the United Kingdom into Portugal … the options are wide for the British Tourists to visit Portugal, from any point. People from the United Kingdom have visited Portugal and celebrated our culture, traditions, landmarks, history, and enjoyed our warm hospitality for decades.
“We look forward to welcome all travelers coming from the UK.”
— Paul Charles 🚦🚦🚦 (@PPaulCharles) May 14, 2021
The late confirmation of opening for travel just goes to highlight the issues with the UK’s ‘green list’. Altogether, 12 countries have been allocated ‘green’ status by the UK government, but that only affects what travelers need to do upon returning to the UK. It does not mean those countries are open for visitors; indeed, only Portugal, Gibraltar, Israel and Iceland are easily visited at the present time.
PCR test demand
As Visit Portugal states that a PCR test will be required within 72 hours of departure, which could be a problem for Brits booked to fly out on Monday. As the PCR test is more expensive and takes time to return results from the lab, would-be holidaymakers now face a scramble to get a test booked and completed before Monday departures.
The UK does not require any PCR testing to be done by travelers returning from Portugal before they arrive. Rather, they are requested to undertake a rapid (lateral flow) test before boarding the plane, and a PCR test within 48 hours of touching down in the UK.
British Airways is trialing a 25-second test that promises to give PCR-like accuracy. If the trials go well, this could be a game-changer for travel in the coming months. For now, however, the requirement for a PCR test at both ends of the journey will add complexity and expense for those wishing to travel.