Holidays to Portugal have been thrown into chaos as ministers removed the European country from the travel green list amid concerns over the new Nepal coronavirus variant.
The move triggered a furious diplomatic row, with Portugal’s president accusing UK ministers of ‘health fundamentalism’ and of being ‘obsessed’ with infection rates.
It also sparked a race among thousands of British holidaymakers in Portugal to get back before quarantine-on-return rules kick in on Tuesday, when the country is formally placed on the amber list.
Those booked to go to Portugal in coming weeks were left in limbo over whether to go ahead with their holiday under the tougher quarantine rules or to rebook for later in the summer and hope the country goes green again.
The decision to make Portugal amber was apparently triggered by concerns over the Nepal variant, a mutated version of the Indian strain. But Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Portugal’s president, accused UK ministers of ‘not recognising that we live in a different situation than we lived before vaccination’.
He added: ‘The numbers are going up, but they are not increasing inpatients and ICU numbers and deaths. We can’t keep obsessively looking at it this way, ignoring that with vaccination, reality has changed.’
Albufeira-based bar owner Gary Search, 54, said he was ‘absolutely devastated’ by the decision. He said: ‘One of the bars is 98 per cent British tourists and in the other about 50 per cent of our customers are Brits who are also mostly holidaymakers. We’re absolutely devastated by today’s decision.
‘We’d literally just got off the ground, we’d been scrabbling around all week getting new staff because obviously we couldn’t employ the staff till we got busy.
Read more: They are taking the piss People: ‘Absolutely devastated’ Britons in Portugal fume after country is demoted to amber list sparking diplomatic storm and race for families to get home in the next four days or face quarantine and £1,000 of PCR tests