Portugal is being dropped from England’s travel corridor list just weeks after it was added, meaning arrivals from the country will be forced to quarantine for a fortnight.
In a blow to holidaymakers, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, who made the announcement on Thursday, confirmed that the changes would apply from 4am on Saturday, forcing travellers in Portugal to rush home to avoid quarantine.
What are the quarantine rules?
Anyone entering England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from somewhere that is not on that country’s list of exempt travel corridors is required to go into self-isolation for 14 days.
What if the rules are not the same between the different countries of the UK?
You can’t get round the rules by using a different airport. For instance, as of 4 September travellers returning to Wales and Scotland from Portugal are required to quarantine. This is true even if they fly into an English airport, despite Portugal still being on England’s green list.
How are the rules enforced?
Everyone entering the UK, including British nationals, must fill in a passenger locator form, regardless of whether or not they need to quarantine. The form asks travellers to provide their contact details and UK address.
If someone who is required to self-isolate does not provide an address, the government will arrange accommodation at the traveller’s expense.
What does quarantine mean you can’t do?
For 14 days, starting from the day after arrival, people who are quarantining should not:
- Go to work, school, or public areas.
- Have visitors, except for essential support.
- Go out to buy food, or other essentials, if they can rely on others to do this for them.
- Use taxis or public transport to reach their destination on arrival in the UK, if possible.
- Use public transport or taxis once at their destination.
The quarantine rules apply to everyone apart from selected groups of people such as freight drivers, very regular business travellers, and politicians or other dignitaries.
But following Downing Street’s move towards regionalised travel restrictions announced earlier this week, the Portuguese islands of Madeira and the Azores remain on the list of exempted locations.
Sweden, which pursued a light-touch approach to coronavirus restrictions, has been added to the travel corridor list for the first time. Hungary, French Polynesia and Réunion are among other locations that are being removed from the list of places free from quarantine restrictions.
Data shows we need to remove PORTUGAL (minus the AZORES and MADEIRA), HUNGARY, FRENCH POLYNESIA and REUNION from the Travel Corridor list to keep everyone safe. If you arrive in England from these destinations after 4am Saturday, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days.— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) September 10, 2020
Shapps warned that all people returning to the UK must complete a passenger locator form by law, tweeting: “This is vital in protecting public health and ensuring those who need to are complying with self-isolation rules. It is a criminal offence not to complete the form, and spot checks will be taking place.”
Boris Johnson pledged during a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday that Border Force would be stepping up its enforcement of quarantine measures. Last month, the Guardian revealed that Border Force officials were aiming to check less than a third of arrivals for passenger locator forms.
Portugal was first added to the travel corridor list on 22 August. Scotland, which along with other devolved nations has the power to make its own decisions on quarantine restrictions, has already removed Portugal from its list. On Thursday it announced that it was also removing Hungary and Réunion from the travel corridor, but adding Sweden, from 4am on Saturday.
Wales removed mainland Portugal last week, but kept Madeira and Azores on its list of exempt locations. It is also now removing Hungary and Réunion. Northern Ireland is making the same changes as England to the list.
On Wednesday, Portugal reported 646 new Covid-19 cases, its highest daily total since late April. Separately, the Department for Transport (DfT) said data indicated a consistent increase in new cases in Portugal over the past three weeks.
In Hungary there has been a 192% increase in new cases over the past week, DfT said. The number of new cases has increased from 1,042 between 27 August and 2 September to 3,047 between 3 and 9 September. There have also been consistent increases in coronavirus cases in French Polynesia and Réunion. However, DfT said Sweden was being added to the travel corridor after a confirmed decrease in cases.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has also updated its travel advice, now advising against all but essential travel to Portugal, Hungary, French Polynesia and Réunion. It has also amended advice on Sweden.
In the Commons on Monday, Shapps announced a new “islands policy”, with the government in effect embracing regional travel corridors for the first time. It means the government can distinguish between a country’s mainland and islands to make changes to locations on the travel list.
However, Shapps stopped short of saying the government would be implementing regional corridors within mainland countries, saying the data was too patchy and that there was nothing to stop people moving around. As he unveiled the new policy shift, Shapps confirmed that seven Greek islands were being removed from England’s list of locations exempt from 14-day Covid-19 quarantine – but not the country’s mainland.