Tourism bosses ‘optimistic’ that Brits WILL get air-bridge for holidays in Portugal

Tourism bosses are optimistic that Brits WILL get the ‘air-bridge’ agreement they so badly need to be able to take summer holidays in Portugal despite the pandemic.

After yesterday’s ‘shock news’ that the British government might be excluding Portugal from its list of ‘safe destinations’ (that can skip the requirement for returning nationals to go into 14-day quarantine on their return to UK), Turismo do Algarve and the Confederation of Portuguese Tourism have been swift to ‘change the focus’.

Talking to SIC television, president of the former, João Fernandes, stressed the exceptionally low number of both cases and deaths in the Algarve.

The region has seen only 1.3% of the nation’s 40,415 cases, and registered “less than 1% of deaths”, he explains.

As experts stressed earlier this week, Portugal’s ‘death tally’ is also way down on the list of European countries: far lower than Spain, Italy, France and Germany – all of which are likely to be deemed ‘safe’ by the UK for Brits to travel to without requiring quarantine afterwards.

Talking to Expresso, Francisco Calheiros of Confederation of Portuguese Tourism stressed that meetings “of a technical nature with the presence of epidemiologists” went ahead throughout yesterday (Thursday) to “explain to the British” that the situation (of increasing cases, most of them asymptomatic) “is being controlled”.

In Calheiros’ opinion “good sense will win through”.

He admitted that the country has been seeing infection rates increase at the rate of around 300 cases per day (unfortunately today’s tally is considerably more than that at 451) , but he insists they are being “tackled robustly” and tactics have been showing results.

Like prime minister António Costa, Calheiros believes much of this situation boils down to Portugal having been transparent. The country is performing more tests on a percentage basis than other countries and thus “the probability of finding infected people is greater”.

Back in the Algarve, João Fernandes adds that the quick way authorities dealt with the outbreak recently in Lagos, as well as the low number of infections regionally, should be enough to show decision-makers in UK that the Algarve is the safe destination it has been marketing itself to be since the start of this problematic summer season.

TRAVEL INDUSTRY FURY AS GOVERNMENT ‘DITHERS’ OVER AIR BRIDGE PLANS
Meantime, the UK’s Independent has highlighted the fury within the travel industry of the British government’s handling of its air bridge plans – calling the whole concept “a fiasco”.

The idea for quarantining Brits came eight weeks ago – yet still today no one knows which countries are to be deemed ‘safe’ and which will require two-weeks of self-isolation on the return home.

‘Medical experts’ have also criticised the policy for “actually increasing the risk to British holidaymakers” by not allowing them to visit countries where they are LESS LIKELY to catch the virus than if they stayed in the UK.

For now, as Portugal waits for answers due on Monday (June 29), three airlines – British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair – are challenging the British government’s imposition of quarantine in court on the basis that it represents “disproportionate” legislation that was brought in without consultation, while campaign group Quash Quarantine – said to represent 400 of the biggest travel and hospitality businesses in Britain – has called for the whole plan to be scrapped.

The corridors will be unenforceable, says Quash Quarantine spokesman Paul Charles – stressing Brits could ‘fly into Spain, drive to Portugal and then fly out of Spain when they leave’, neatly bypassing the whole thing.

Quash Quarantine and others are calling for a Pan-European travel corridor: in other words, “travel bridges to everywhere”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com