Portugal is to reopen to British visitors with negative PCR test results on Monday, despite the government extending a nationwide state of emergency until the end of the month as the country continues to recover from a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement came a week after the UK government added Portugal to the “green list” of countries to which Britons can travel from 17 May without the need to quarantine on their return.
In a much-anticipated statement on Friday afternoon, the Portuguese government confirmed that British tourists would be allowed to enter Portugal from midnight on Monday.
“This decision will revoke the essential travel restrictions, that [are] in place until 16 May,” it said. “Any person entering Portugal will have, in any case, to have an RT-PCR test done 72 hours before departure.”
According to the statement, the national tourist office has been working to ensure there will be sufficient testing capacity to meet demand from tourists and thousands of people in the hospitality sector have been trained as part of the country’s “clean and safe” initiative.
“People from the United Kingdom have visited Portugal and celebrated our culture, traditions, landmarks, history and enjoyed our warm hospitality for decades,” it said.
“We look forward to welcoming all travellers coming from the UK.”
João Fernandes, the president of the Algarve Tourism Board, welcomed the decision. He said: “It’s really important because the UK is our main market and there isn’t the concern about the [health] risk because they have the best pandemic indicators.”
The Algarve Hotel and Tourism Business Association hailed the announcement as the best news of the past 18 months, adding it was experiencing “an almost exponential increase” in bookings from the UK.
“We have hotel groups that have seen more bookings in this past week than in a whole month in a normal year,” said the association’s president, Elidérico Viegas.
“The UK is not just any market for us; it’s our most important supplier of tourists and so having a aerial corridor between the UK and Portugal – and the Algarve specifically, which is the preferred destination for British visitors – brightens the outlook for hotel and tourist business owners.”
Thomas Cook also hailed the news and said the number of Portugal bookings had shot up since the UK government added the country to the green list.
“We can see just how much people have been waiting for confirmation of the traffic light system with bookings more than triple what they were only a week ago making Portugal the most popular holiday destination at the moment,” the travel firm said in a statement.
Under Portugal’s continuing “state of calamity”, gatherings are limited to 10 people, there is a ban on drinking in the streets and other public places, and nonessential shops must close at 9pm and restaurants at 10.30pm.
The government said it had decided to err on the side of caution despite “quite a significant decrease” in cases and “a very positive evolution”.
At the height of the third wave in January, Portugal – which has a population of 10.2 million – recorded more than 16,000 cases in a single day.
The Portuguese decision arrived two days after Spain said it was aiming to welcome British tourists back without the need for a negative Covid test from 20 May.
But much will depend on whether the UK government moves Spain into the green list of countries Britons will be allowed to visit from Monday. At the moment, Spain is in the amber category, meaning those returning to the UK would have to quarantine for 10 days and take two Covid tests.
Italy, which is also in the UK’s amber category, has announced that from Sunday travellers from the EU, UK and Israel will no longer need to quarantine for five days on arrival. However, a negative Covid test result will still be needed to enter the country.