PORTUGAL was today relegated to Britain's amber list after ministers sounded the alarm about a worrying new "Nepal mutation" of the Indian variant detected in the holiday hotspot.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps this afternoon sent thousands of travel plans up in smoke by advising Brits NOT to go to the popular destination – and making returning passengers self-isolate from 4am next Tuesday.
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Confirming the move – first revealed by the Sun – Mr Shapps warned 68 cases of the Indian "Delta" Variant had been identified in Portugal.
They include cases of the emerging Nepal mutation – and the minister said it was currently unclear if vaccines were effective against the strain.
Mr Shapps said: "We just don't know the potential for that to be a vaccine-defeating mutation and simply don't want to take the risk as we come up to June 21 and the review of the fourth stage of the unlock."
Whitehall sources said Public Health England were also scrambling to assess if the emerging strain is more infectious.
Portugal's infection rate has been doubling since it was moved to the green list on May 17.
The country – which includes popular resorts such as the Algarve – will be shunted onto the amber list at 4am on Tuesday 8 June.
Amid a furious backlash from hard-hit airlines, the minister acknowledged the industry had "suffered" but defended his "difficult by decisive decision".
He added: "It's safety first to get our unlock done at home"
It comes as:
- No new countries were added to the green list
- Seven countries including Egypt, Afghanistan and Costa Rica were added to the red list
- Brits scrambled to refund their flights to Portugal
- Families head to Greece despite the Government's amber warning – as one Brit mum says ‘my kids deserve a holiday’
- Heathrow finally opens a separate red list terminal after weeks of India arrivals mixing with others in long border queues
- Holidaymakers will be hit with soaring prices if green list additions are 'kept secret', says an airport boss
- Brits are now banned from entering France unless they have ‘compelling’ reason to stop spread of Indian variant
- Back in Britain people have been enjoying a mini-heatwave as Brits flocked to beaches and hotspots to soak up the sun
It is a bitter blow for holidaymakers who made bookings after Portugal became one of the only European hotpots on the green list from May 17.
Today's decision to turn it amber means anyone coming back will now have to isolate for ten days when they get home.
Anyone coming into the country will already have to show a negative Covid test, and pay for more in the days after they land back in Britain.
If they are negative, people will be released from quarantine and can go out of their homes again.
But those on the red list will have to stay in designated hotel quarantine facilities when they come back to the UK.
And they will be forced to use different terminals too so they don't mix with other passengers in the airport.
Meanwhile, no countries are being added to the green list in a further gut punch for Brits aching for a post-pandemic getaway.
It means their list of potential holiday destinations are limited to a handful of places like Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands.
Britain finally opened up its international travel again from May 17, and the green list is set to be updated at least every three weeks.
The PM yesterday appeared downbeat about adding too many nations to the safe travel list, saying he would not hesitate to slam them on the red or amber list if he had to.
The PM added: “We’re going to try to allow people to travel, as I know many want to.
“But we’ve got to be cautious and we’ve got to continue to put countries on the red list, on the amber list, when that is necessary.
“The priority is to continue the vaccine rollout, to protect the people of this country.”
The Department for Transport has previously warned that Brits should be wary that countries can be taken off the green list with little notice – which could spark holiday chaos over the summer months.
Turning Portugal amber is a blow for Brits
By LISA MINOT, Travel Editor
SLAMMING Portugal onto the amber list means holidays for now are reserved just for the rich and retired.
The holiday hotspot was our only hope for a bit of serious sizzling sun and sand without the need for quarantine on return.
But now with poor Portugal looking to be put on the amber list it puts the travel plans of millions are thrown into disarray.
The shattered travel industry – taking its very first tentative steps towards recovery after a devastating 14 months that saw it paralysed by the pandemic – is right back to square one.
After so little time on the government’s green list – and without the notice that putting it onto the green watchlist could have provided – once again holidaymakers will be scrabbling to change their plans at the very last moment.
It seems pointless to continue with this traffic light system – why doesn’t the government just admit they don’t want us travelling anywhere right now and be honest with people?
What we are seeing is a return to the chaos of last summer’s travel corridors despite the fact the UK has one of the world’s most successful vaccine rollouts.
Those who can afford to buy the three tests required to visit an amber country and can take the time to quarantine may well be able to continue with their plans but for most that is just not possible.
It will also mean yet again tour operators having to cancel holidays if the country is also added back to the list of destinations that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office advise against all but essential travel to.
Despite all our sacrifices, it seems this is still going to be a summer of chaos and confusion for travellers.
Assessments on whether a country is on the red, amber or green list are based on a range of factors, including the proportion of a population that has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants, and access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.
The vaccination programme is seen as key in the bid to reopen the country and beyond.
It was confirmed on Wednesday that 75 per cent of UK adults across the UK had now had their first coronavirus jab, and 50 per cent of adults in England had received both doses.
Despite the amber warnings, Brits have been heading to amber-list Spain and Greece in recent weeks, going against warnings from the UK government.
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