The Portuguese government has introduced a system of fines for any airline carrying passengers into the country from a list of nations designated as high risk for COVID-19. From this week, all passengers from high-risk countries must carry a negative test, or both airlines and individuals risk being fined.
As of July 11th, anyone arriving in Portugal from the US or any other non-European Union country must carry a negative RT-PCR test. The test for COVID-19 must have been carried out within 72 hours of flying. Any passenger without a test, or with a test that fails to meet these requirements, could face a fine.
Individuals will be fined between €500 ($570) to €2,000 ($2,280) while an airline transporting passengers without a test will be fined up to €3,000. Passengers must also submit to having their temperatures taken upon arrival. Refusal to comply with this rule could result in an even more significant fine of between €2,000-€3,000 ($2,280- $3,420).
The rules do not apply to Portuguese nationals and anyone with a residency permit. Additionally, the autonomous regions of Madeira and Azores are implementing their own practices.
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Putting the onus on airlines
By introducing a fine for both passengers and airlines, the Portuguese government is putting pressure on airlines to regulate and check passenger health. Airlines will also be responsible for the costs of returning any passenger without the necessary test.
The reason Portugal wants airlines to take responsibility for their passengers is that the strain of testing everyone upon arrival is starting to show. ANA, the airport authority in Portugal, is responsible for proving tests and checks upon arrival. The tests are time-consuming, so fewer arrivals would benefit the ANA.
By introducing fines, the government can also pay for the testing facilities on behalf of the ANA. The airport authority has already raised concerns regarding the expense of providing testing at the airport.
What happens if passengers refuse?
If passengers refuse to get tested before flying, they can submit to testing at the airport upon arrival. Anyone choosing to do this will then have to self-isolate until the test results are confirmed as negative. This shouldn’t take longer than a few days.
However, if a passenger refuses to take a test before flying and refuses a temperature check upon arrival, the airline that brought them into the country will be responsible for taking them back. There is a possibility that airlines will warn passengers of regulations in advance and state that if a return flight is needed, the passenger will be held financially responsible.
In this way, airlines could avoid additional costs and put the onus on the traveler. However, airlines would still be liable for any fines levied by Portugal.
The Portuguese government isn’t the only official body using fines as a way to try to control the virus. In the US, passengers arriving into New York could face fines of up to $2,000 if they do not fill out a form giving a detailed health summary and contact information. In Canada, penalties can be levied against individuals who do not self-isolate for 14 days. The UK has a similar rule, which, if broken, could result in a fine of up to £1,000 ($1,218).
Do you think financial penalties will encourage people to check and abide by regulations before traveling? Is it fair to punish airlines if passengers refuse to comply? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.