Flights to and from Portugal to UK ‘should be back in operation before summer’, says minister

Flights to and from Portugal and the UK ‘should be back in operation before the summer’.

This was the message given by foreign affairs minister Augusto Santos Silva talking to the Telegraph yesterday (Monday).

It was billed as ‘an exclusive interview’ and actually concentrated more on Portugal’s attitude to Britain’s having red-listed the country on the basis that it has close links with Brazil and could therefore be a danger for importing the Brazilian variant.

Mr Santos Silva has always been critical of the UK’s thinking, and continues to be.

He told the Telegraph it was “untrue” that Portugal is a greater risk because of its links with Brazil, stressing that it has been the UK’s Kent variant that has actually posed the biggest threat to Portugal.

“The only variants that are present in Portugal are British,” he told the paper. “Almost half of new infections in Portugal belong to this British variant. That’s why we suspended the flights between Britain and Portugal”.

Says the Telegraph, Mr Santos Silva “attacked the UK’s quarantine hotel policy”, calling it  “useless” bearing in mind the Portuguese government has already suspended flights between Portugal and UK, and the entire country is in strict lockdown.

This lead the conversation to the fact that Portugal’s rates of infection have reduced considerably.

Said Mr Santos Silva: “We hope that in weeks we can overcome this situation and we can return to the normal connection between the UK and Portugal. We hope that we can re-establish the connection before summer.”

The Telegraph adds that “Mr Santos Silva declined to say whether the UK decision had damaged relations” – though this has certainly not been a shining moment in the history of two of the world’s ‘oldest allies’.

Portugal was in fact the first to introduce travel restrictions between the two counties, just before Christmas – essentially limiting entries from UK to Portuguese nationals and legal expatriate residents (dependent on a negative test for Covid-19 in the previous 72-hours click here).

The UK then suspended flights to Portugal on January 14 – leading Mr Santos Silva to label the decision “absurd” and “without logic” – and then a little over a week later Portugal cut all its flight connections with the UK (click here).

All in all, it has been a hugely confusing time, to the point that Portugal in its capacity as leading the rotating European presidency has called for a homogenised response to travel restrictions, at least throughout the bloc, to be discussed in greater detail at next week’s Council on General Matters.

Said Christian Wigand, the European Commissioner on matters of justice, there is the feeling right now that the coordinated approach Europe has been striving for is “at risk of fragmentation and disruption”.

[email protected]