Portugal will be removed from the green travel list following the latest update from the UK government.
The popular tourist spot, including the islands of Madeira and the Azores, will be added to the amber list from 4am on Tuesday.
People returning to the UK from Portugal will be required to self-isolate at home for 10 days as part of coronavirus restrictions.
The news comes as the rest of the green list is set to remain unchanged, despite hopes more destinations would be added, including the Spanish and Greek islands, and Malta.
Why is Portugal moving to the amber list?
The move to the amber list comes after scientists alerted ministers to a new ‘Nepal variant’ of Covid-19, which is thought to have spread into some European countries.
Scientists from the Joint Biosecurity Centre are reportedly concerned about rising infection rates and the emergence of mutations in the holiday hotspot.
In an interview, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “I want to be straight with people, it’s actually a difficult decision to make, but in the end we’ve seen two things really which caused concern.
“One is the positivity rate has nearly doubled since the last review in Portugal and the other is there’s a sort of Nepal mutation of the so-called Indian variant which has been detected and we just don’t know the potential for that to be vaccine-defeating mutation and simply don’t want to take the risk as we come up to June 21 and the review of the fourth stage of the unlock.”
The government’s decision to remove Portugal from the green list marks a huge blow for the travel industry, as the country was the only viable major tourist destination on the green list when it was announced last month.
The country’s seven-day rate of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people currently stands at 37.2, up from 30.7 a week earlier.
The government has previously said assessments of travel lists are based on a range of factors, including the proportion of a population that has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants, and access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said the move is a “terrible decision”.
He said: “They are basically putting at risk tens of thousands of jobs across aviation and the travel sector, and not showing any signs of helping the sector to recover.
“They seem to want to continue to create an atmosphere of fear among travellers, which is totally at odds with other countries.
“There are several countries which meet the criteria to be on the green list so this is clearly a politically charged decision rather than one based on data.”
Can I go to an amber destination?
While there is no law prohibiting people from travelling to an amber list country for a holiday, the government is urging people not to go and to stick only to countries on the green list.
If you do choose to travel to an amber destination for your holiday, you will be going against government advice and additional Covid checks will be required.
With Portugal to be added to the amber travel list, travellers arriving in the UK from the country must self-isolate at home for 10 days, and will need to take a PCR coronavirus test on day two and day eight of their return.
Those who live in England have the option of a “test to release” on day five to end their self-isolation period early. If the test result is inconclusive you must continue to quarantine, or you can choose to take another privately provided test to find out if you can stop self-isolation early.
Anyone who fails to quarantine for the required period faces a fine of up to £1,000 for the first time in England, and up to £10,000 for further breaches.
The test to release scheme is not available to those travelling to Scotland.
How will the change affect travel insurance?
Many holidaymakers in Portugal will now face a scramble for flights home before the move is introduced, which is expected to be in the coming days.
Helen Chambers, Travel Insurance Expert at MoneySuperMarket, advised that while the traffic light list should not impact travellers’ insurance, there is a risk that changes made to the list could result in holidays being cancelled.
Most travel companies are refusing refunds in the event a trip is cancelled due to the destination being on the amber list, although some firms, including Exodus, Kuoni and easyJet Holidays, have been praised by consumer group Which? for their flexible policies.
Ms Chambers told NationalWorld: “If your country is on the amber list but the FCDO say that it is safe to travel then you are covered from an insurance perspective.
"However, it’s worth keeping in mind that if the country you are travelling to goes from the green list to an amber or red list and you decide not to travel, your insurer will not cover the cancellation of your holiday.
"Some package tour operators have advised that they will be continuing to operate holidays to countries that are classed as ‘amber’. This is on the provision that the FCDO does not advise against ‘all but essential’ travel to these areas.
"We recommend that consumers book using tour operators to give them more confidence. This is also essential if you want to be covered by ATOL or ABTA schemes. In doing so, this will give consumers more financial protection and flexibility, should anything change as a result of the pandemic.
"It is necessary to follow the FCDO’s travel guidance as you’ll find that most policies will not cover you if you ignore their advice, travel and then try to submit a claim later on – it will invalidate your claim.’
If you do choose to travel to an amber destination for your holiday, you will be going against government advice and additional Covid checks will be required, including self-isolating for 10 days and taking a PCR test on day two and day eight of your return.
Hannah Isitt, Travel insurance expert at GoCompare, told NationalWorld: “There is no travel insurance product that covers against the traffic light system, only a change in the FCDO advice.
"The traffic light system does not impact the insured travel policy – the coverage is dependent on the FCDO advice. One example at the moment is Israel – which is on the green list - but no cover as FCDO advise against all travel, whereas Rhodes, which is amber, is covered as FCDO isn’t advising against travel.
“If the policy holder is on their trip when there is a change in traffic light, from green to amber, and if the insured person stays on the trip they will continue to get the same cover as when they travelled.
"Insurers will not cover the costs for testing, unless it’s part of a medical claims, or quarantine costs.”
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