Explained: UK facing diplomatic backlash over ‘air bridge’ plans

Portugal angry about being denied quarantine exemption

(Image credit: Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP via Getty Images)

The Portuguese government has criticised plans to exclude the popular holiday destination from the UK’s proposed “air bridge” scheme.

Calling for his country to be exempted from the mandatory 14-day quarantine for new arrivals to the UK, Home Affairs Minister Eduardo Cabrita said that Portugal was “manifestly not where the risk is” and that anyone who thinks otherwise should “just compare the data”.

“Portugal has better public health indicators and better pandemic response indicators than the United Kingdom,” he added.

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Cabrita’s comments to Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticia come as Downing Street prepares “to announce up to 50 countries on Wednesday to which holidaymakers can fly from July 6” without being required to self-isolate on their return, The Telegraph reports.

Portugal is “understood to be two of the nations in Europe currently judged by the UK’s Joint Biosecurity Centre to be potential ‘red category’”, along with Sweden, the newspaper adds.

“While overall cases have remained relatively low in Portugal compared to its neighbour Spain - a comparison of 41,646 to 295,850, respectively - the country’s cases are still a cause for concern,” says The Sun.

Portugal is currently battling to contain an outbreak of coronavirus in and around Lisbon that has led the authorities to re-impose a local lockdown in 19 neighbourhoods.

However, Portuguese health officials claim the outbreak is limited to poorer parts of the capital that rarely attract tourists.

And Francisco Calheiros, president of the Portuguese Tourism Confederation, has pointed out that popular holiday hotspots such as the Algarve have low infection rates.

“Algarve and Madeira are two places that Covid-19 is with a low expression, so I could not believe [reports of Portugal’s possible exclusion],” Calheiros told The Telegraph.

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The dispute comes as Scottish government sources told The Times that quarantine restrictions might be imposed on English holidaymakers if coronavirus infections begin to climb south of the border.

Anyone entering Scotland from overseas must currently enter quarantine for 14 days or face a £480 fine, and a Scottish government source “said that if Covid-19 cases rise, ministers are considering an option to apply the same rules to visitors from England”, the newspaper reports.

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