Thousands of Brits fly to Algarve on “Freedom Day”

Around 5,000 Brits are expected to arrive in the Algarve today (July 19) aboard 28 planes following drastic changes to the UK’s self-isolation rules.

Starting today (the day known as ‘Freedom Day’ which has seen the UK lift almost all of its Covid-19 restrictions), British passengers who have been fully vaccinated no longer have to quarantine for 10 days when arriving from “amber list” countries such as Portugal.

But as the UK’s Independent stresses, “passengers must still provide a negative coronavirus test result before departure to the UK, and pre-book a post-arrival PCR test”.

The change is being celebrated in the Algarve, where tourism officials are still hoping to salvage ‘something’ from this summer. However, they are aware that even the most optimistic scenario will be a far cry from what would be a normal summer outside of a pandemic.

“It may help occupancy levels (at hotels) increase to around 60% in July and August, which is still very far from the 100% that is the norm during these months,” Elidérico Viegas, president of the Algarve hoteliers association (AHETA), told RTP.

The situation is also different from May, when Portugal was one of the few destinations placed on the UK’s ‘green’ travel list. Now, the Algarve (and the rest of the country) are facing the competition of several other countries such as Spain and Greece, whilst struggling with a high Covid-19 incidence rate.

“Portugal’s image in Europe is still slightly marred by our incidence rate of new cases, so the demand won’t be the same as when only we were on the ‘green’ list,” said João Fernandes, the region’s tourism chief.

The UK has become one of the first countries in Europe to lift almost all of its Covid-19 restrictions, despite a rise in cases due to the spread of the Delta variant. Mask-wearing is no longer mandatory, there are no longer any limits on the number of people who can gather indoor or outdoor, social distancing is limited to people who have tested positive for the virus and at airports, and venues like nightclubs and sports stadiums are free to open at full capacity.

michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com