Academics in Britain query ‘science’ behind government decision to ‘blank’ Portugal

Academics in UK are querying the science behind the British government’s decision to blank quarantine-free travel to Portugal (click here).

Lusa carries a number of opinions today from top figures at University College London (UCL).

They all defend consistent and proactive measures for receiving tourists at airports and points of entry to limit the spread of Covid-19, but they find Portugal’s exclusion from the British government’s list of ‘air bridges’ “questionable”, says the news agency.

Oksana Pyzik, for example, a specialist in infectious diseases at UCL, goes further.

She told Lusa she is “convinced the decision for travel corridors appears to be motivated by the country’s economic importance to the United Kingdom, as well as by the number of passengers and amount of trade against pandemic control”.

Ms Pyzik dubbed the actual ‘science’ behind the decision that has caused a rush of holiday cancellations up and down the country as ‘somewhat distorted’ by different testing strategies and levels of detection of infected people.

High levels of detection carry “clear economic consequences”, she said. But they do not take into account that when it comes to ‘testing’ Portugal has detected around 79% of its cases, in contrast to UK (18%), Italy (11%) and Germany (43%)”.

Gianluca Pescaroli, a professor at UCL’s Institute for the Reduction of Risks and Disasters, said he was “very worried with the United Kingdom because the messages (coming from the government) are not consistent, and because the first wave of the virus has still not totally passed”.

He told Lusa he does not understand why passengers arriving (in UK) from Portugal continue to be subjected to quarantine, “unlike those arriving from Italy, Spain and other countries”.

“If we look back, there were some countries that had much larger peaks that were out of control. This did not happen as far as I am aware in Portugal”.

He stressed it is sensible nonetheless to demand quarantine for people flying in from the United States and Brazil as both countries have so far failed to get a grip on their outbreaks.

Both academics appeared to be concerned that the situation in UK is being poorly managed to the point that a ‘time bomb’ could be building to ‘detonate’ in the colder months when autumn arrives,

Says Lusa, this is not the first time academics have queried the British government’s contention that it is simply ‘following the science’.

A team of investigators at Lisbon’s ENSP (national school of public health) has already concluded that the decision to refuse Portugal an air bridge “has no scientific foundation” and even less transparency – essentially because it ignored “other indicators of epidemiological risk”.

Meantime, the Algarve Resident’s office continue to receive emails from outraged Brits who maintain they’ll be visiting Portugal come what may.

We have even had one from a resident who vows to refuse to go into quarantine when he goes to UK in August, and will also refuse to give a contact address.

“They can do one of two things”, he told us. “They can fine me, which I will refuse to pay, or they can lock me up. If they do arrest me then watch this space. I have already informed certain people in the UK to get in touch with the media when/ if this happens.

“I am doing this because I am disgusted in the way my country’s government has treated Portugal”, he continued. “I have lived in Portugal for 14 years and I never thought there would come a day when I would feel so embarrassed to be an Englishman”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com