As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, passengers arriving into Portugal from high-risk countries have been required to take tests for COVID-19. However, Portugal’s border force has revealed that some travelers have been refusing to do so.
A condition of entry
July 15th this year saw a new regulation concerning entry into Portugal come into force. This legislation enforces the testing of passengers entering the country from territories considered to be particularly at risk of carrying COVID-19. It is overseen by Portugal’s Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF), which translates to “Foreigners and Borders Service” in English.
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According to Lisbon Airport, the legislation concerns those arriving from non-EU / non-Schengen countries. One way that passengers can do this is by presenting a negative RT-PCR test upon taken before the passenger’s journey to Portugal. However, this must have been conducted within the previous 72 hours to be accepted as valid.
Should a passenger not have taken the test before traveling, they must be tested on arrival at the airport. Lisbon Airport underlines that this is to be done at the passenger’s own expense. However, the exact cost of this is not specified. Passengers who are merely transiting in Portugal are not obliged to take or present proof of having taken a test. This is the case as long as they do not leave the airport while in transit.
Thousands of missed tests
Portugal’s Polícia de Segurança Pública (“Public Security Police”) recently held a webinar titled “The COVID-19 Pandemic and Internal Security.” This saw the SEF’s deputy director of borders, Maria José Ribeiro, reveal statistics concerning entries into Portugal at Lisbon Airport up to September 30th.
A Subdiretora da Direção de Fronteiras de Lisboa do SEF, Maria José Ribeiro, participou hoje no webinar “A Pandemia do COVID-19 e a Segurança Interna” organizado Centro de Investigação do ISCPSI. O controlo de fronteiras em situação de pandemia foi o tema da sua intervenção. pic.twitter.com/pRXeOpisZ5
— SEF (@SEF_Portugal) October 7, 2020
During this time, the SEF oversaw the entry of around 86,000 travelers into the country at Lisbon Airport. Of these, some 6,479 (approximately 7.5%) did not provide proof of a diagnostic test upon arrival. While the majority were then tested upon the airport premises, the SEF reports that 2,159 of these passengers refused to take the test. Of course, such refusals must be mitigated against, but what exactly happens when one occurs?
Consequences of a missed test
According to Lisbon Airport, the SEF will immediately notify travelers who refuse to take a test at the airport to do so privately. This must be “within 48 hours, at their own expense, and [passengers are] advised that they may incur in the crimes of disobedience and spread of contagious disease.” Maria José Ribeiro states that authorities in the passenger’s area of residence are also notified.
Having taken the test, travelers cannot leave their homes until the test result is known. The measures don’t just concern passengers. Macau Business also reports that “airlines that transport passengers without documentation of the COVID-19 diagnostic test can be fined, and compliance with these obligations is monitored by the Civil Aviation Authority.” It is clear that, in order for aviation to best overcome the present situation, all parties involved have to play by the rules.
Have you had to take or present proof of a COVID-19 test at an airport? Do you feel that it is a worthwhile inconvenience for being able to fly again? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.