Portugal Shifts Onto UK Government’s Amber List

Portugal today shifted onto the United Kingdom Government’s amber list. This means that all those arriving from the country after 04:00 this morning will not be entitled to quarantine free travel. The move sparked a mad dash to repatriate Brits in Portugal before the changes kicked in.

United Kingdom, Portugal, Amber List
Portugal has shifted back onto the UK Government’s amber list. Photo: Getty Images

For much of 2021, travel to the United Kingdom has been heavily restricted. At one point, non-essential travel from the country was banned, with a fine of up to £5,000 threatened. Things finally relaxed in mid-May, but while the COVID-19 situation worldwide continues to improve, the UK Government is shrinking its list of safe countries.

The last flight back

Portugal officially transferred onto the amber list at 04:00 this morning. With a delay leaving Portugal, the last flight back to the UK before this deadline arrived with an hour to spare. The flight was the Wizz Air 5916 service from Faro Airport (FAO) to Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA).

Typically, the flight is scheduled to depart from Faro at 23:00, arriving in Doncaster at 02:05. Last night, the flight left Portugal with a one-hour, 25-minute delay at 00:25. Had the flight taken the scheduled time, it would’ve landed at 03:30, meaning passengers would have a mad dash to the border.

Thankfully, lost time was made up during the flight, meaning that the aircraft, an Airbus A321, arrived at the gate at 02:58 this morning, according to data from RadarBox.com.

United Kingdom, Portugal, Amber List
Wizz Air operated the last flight back to England before the rule change. Photo: RadarBox.com

Many airlines realized the need to bring passengers back from Portugal early, including British Airways. They scheduled a Boeing 777 on a route usually operated by narrowbodies to ensure a higher capacity. There was increased demand to return to the UK before the change. Those arriving from Portugal now must pay for two PCR tests and quarantine for ten days. With a third PCR test on day five, it is possible to leave quarantine early.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Chaos at the airport

According to The Independent, there was chaos at Faro Airport yesterday due to the sheer volume of Brits suddenly attempting to fly home. When the green list had been put in place, the government advised that it would warn if countries were at risk of moving onto the amber list. However, no warning was given. This seemed to annoy Portugal, who said that they couldn’t understand the logic of the decision.

When Portugal was placed on the Green List, it had a 7-day incidence rate of 27.38 cases per 100,000 people. This had climbed marginally to 37.36 by May 30th, the most recent data shown by the EU COVID-19 dashboard. The decision to remove it from the green list came four days later.

For comparison, the seven-day case rate in the UK was 20.3 when Portugal was added to the green list. On May 30th, it had increased to 35.1, similar to the climb in Portugal. While many were surprised to see Portugal added to the amber list so abruptly, there was also shock that they didn’t add Malta to the green list.

The European island nation had a seven-day COVID-19 case rate of 6.61 per 100,000 on May 30th. This was far below that of Portugal when it was added and similar to Iceland’s, also on the green list.

United Kingdom, Portugal, Amber List
The UK government’s current country classification. Photo: MapChart.net

Updates to the red list

It wasn’t just Portugal that shifted status this morning. A host of countries were also downgraded from the amber list to the red list. These are,

  • Afghanistan
  • Bahrain
  • Costa Rica
  • Egypt
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Trinidad and Tobago

With the additions, 45 countries are now on the red list. When arriving at Heathrow, arrivals from red-list countries are separated from others and transferred to Terminal 3. Once they have collected their bags and passed immigration, they are taken to a government-managed quarantine hotel facility.

Do you think the UK Government made the right decision to move Portugal to the amber list? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!