LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s tourism sector reacted with fury and mistrust of Britain’s decision to maintain a quarantine regime for travelers coming from Portugal despite having a higher number of coronavirus cases and deaths.
FILE PHOTO: Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva attends a news conference at Necessida’s Palace in Lisbon, Portugal, February 4, 2019. REUTERS / Rafael Marchante
Portugal was provided by a list of more than 50 countries that the United Kingdom considers sufficiently safe for travel without coronavirus-related restrictions, which means vacationers returning from Portugal would have to quarantine for 14 days.
It will be a major deterrent for British tourists, accounting for 2.1 million of Portugal’s foreign visitors last year, the second largest market after Spain.
“Restaurants have been adapted, all areas are sanitized, masks are mandatory, hospitals are prepared, doctors trained. The region has adapted, ”says Antonio Pina, a mayor of the tourist-dependent southern Algarve.
Over a dozen countries have imposed restrictions on travel from Portugal as a hundred high fees on several hundred new cases per day concentrated to the outskirts of Lisbon over the past month have worried the authorities.
“The outbreak is in peripheral Lisbon where there are no hotels, no tourist restaurants,” stated Raul Martins, head of the Portugal Hotel Association.
“It has been poorly explained to the British.”
Portugal’s number of new cases per 100,000 population is currently the second highest in Europe after Sweden, according to data from the European Union’s (EU) Center for Disease Control.
Portugal attributes this to its high test rate, although the UK has outperformed Portugal in terms of tests per million people, according to the website worldometer.info.
“We were punished for telling the truth at a time when it is important to be transparent,” said Joao Fernandes, director of the Algarve Tourism Authority.
In a tweet, the Foreign Ministry said “it is absurd that a country, the United Kingdom, with 28 times more deaths than Portugal due to # covid-19, quarantine passengers from Portugal”.
The United Kingdom has confirmed 44,131 deaths and 284,276 positive tests, while Portugal has reported 1,587 deaths and 42,772 cases.
“We hope this decision, which seems to us deeply unfair and wrong from the British authorities, will be corrected as soon as possible,” Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told reporters.
“Countries that are friends treat each other differently.”
(This story corrects the mayor’s last name from Pira to Pina, paragraph 4).
Reporting by Victoria Waldersee, Catarina Demony, Patricia Rua; Rditing by Andrei Khalip, Mark Potter and Andrew Cawthorne