These are precisely the scenes that the tourism industry had asked to be avoided: chaos, confusion and delays at airports due to erratic rules in the management of the pandemic. Thousands of British tourists are desperately trying to return from Portugal at this time before the country leaves permanently the green list of tourist destinations prepared by the Government of Boris Johnson. The change will occur at five in the morning (Spanish peninsular time) on Tuesday, June 8.
The decision caught thousands of travelers by surprise last week who had finally managed to escape for a few days on vacation, after a harsh lockdown in the UK that began in mid-December. Most of the tourists had taken advantage of the so-called half term (quarterly break), last week’s school holidays from May 31 to June 4. Fortunately for them, the return trip was already closed. But for many others, who had decided to extend their stay on Portuguese beaches, between 13,000 and 20,000, according to estimates by the tourist industry, the government’s change in criteria has turned into a nightmare.
Angela Matan and Craig Stanley, a couple who had started their vacation in the Algarve on Wednesday. “We have been since Thursday, together with other friends, trying to find flights and book the mandatory tests for the return,” he explained to the BBC. “Hours, hours and hours that have not been used for anything.” If the return flights are already practically impossible to achieve before the cut-off time, the effort is even more frustrating given the impossibility of getting on the plane if there is no documentary proof that the mandatory PCRs have been booked.
In the case of arriving on time, the United Kingdom continues to require a test on the second day of return. If the traveler is forced to carry out a forced quarantine, he must previously arrange two tests for days 2 and 8 of isolation. “You have to register online to make the reservation, and from Portugal it has been impossible for us,” explains Angela. The couple has already given up on returning before the deadline expires. Their case is especially striking because both are volunteers in the vaccination campaign carried out by the British Government. Consequence: they will not be able to join their post when they return, just at a time when the Johnson Executive wants at all costs to accelerate immunization, to face the increase in infections in the country of the so-called Indian variant.
However, data managed by the experts who advise Downing Street – specifically, from the Joint Biosafety Center – indicate that, out of 200 travelers from Portugal between May 6 and 19, only three positive cases of covid were detected -19. “They have ignored their own recommendations and thrown an entire industry down the drain. It is already clear that many members of the Government do not want international travel this summer. They should have the decency to say it clearly, so that the passengers and ourselves made our plans in an appropriate way ”, has charged against the Government of Johnson Tim Aldersdale, the executive director of UK Airlines, the employer group that concentrates the majority of airlines registered in the United Kingdom.