Portugal is, as of this Thursday, on the UK's "green" list. With the country's epidemiological situation under control, the measure could help boost tourism.
British tourists are now allowed to travel to Portugal without major restrictions, after several months in which only essential travel and tight rules were permitted. At a time when the national epidemiological situation is favourable and vaccination campaigns are gaining pace, the demand for flights to Portuguese territory, especially to the Algarve, has skyrocketed.
Expectations were high, and they were confirmed. The British government has included Portugal in the “green list” of countries considered safe to travel to and exempt from quarantine on arrival in England. So, as of this Monday and for at least three weeks (the period during which the list is reviewed), holidaymakers need only test negative to return to the UK and to repeat the test two days later but are not subject to any quarantine period as happens in the “orange” and “red” lists.
Portugal is one of the few countries in Europe to join this list without restrictions, as the majority will be on the “yellow” list, which implies tighter restrictions, as is the case in Spain, France and Greece. Therefore, this is “good news” for national tourism, heavily penalised by the pandemic and highly dependent on British holidaymakers.
Even before the pandemic, more precisely in 2019, 15% of the 24.6 million non-resident tourists that Portugal received were from the United Kingdom, only surpassed by Spain, which accounted for 25.5% of foreign tourists who arrived in the national territory. That year, the number of British tourists grew by 7.6%, according to data from Statistics Portugal (INE). In the year of the pandemic, numbers plummeted (78.5% less than in the same period of the previous year), but the United Kingdom continued to be one of the main source markets for tourists to Portugal, with over two million British tourists staying overnight in Portugal, which represents 16.3% of total overnight stays.
Portugal’s inclusion in the UK’s “green” list, along with the country’s controlled epidemiological situation, could be the perfect “trigger” for the upturn in tourism. And the demand has already been felt, with a strong increase in bookings, mainly for the Algarve, which has led to an increase in the availability of tickets by various airlines.
This situation shows Portugal is being seen as a safe destination for travel. If during the third wave of the pandemic, more specifically in January, the country was world news for the worst reasons by breaking consecutive records, now the situation is much more inviting.
Since the start of the lockdown easing plan, on March 15, and until last Friday, Portugal counted 26.866 new infections, in accumulated terms, in a total of more than 840.000 cases identified since the beginning of the pandemic. If we compare this with the values registered at the “peak” of the third wave, the difference is very significant. In January alone, 306,838 cases were identified by Covid-19, i.e. 11 times more than the number registered in the last two months.
This decrease in incidence is also reflected in active cases in Portugal, that is, people who are currently fighting the disease. The data for last Friday, indicate that there are now 22,095 active cases in the country, 126 of which in the last 24 hours, a figure that contrasts with the record of 7,935 active cases reached on January 20.
The difference is also strongly felt in the death rate from the disease. Between March 15 and May 14, 305 people died in Portugal from Covid. If we compare this to the 5,576 deaths declared in the entire month of January, this is a decrease of 5,271 recorded deaths. Since the beginning of the pandemic have died over 17.000 people.
It should be noted that the increasing rate of vaccination in Portugal, as well as the fact that the population aged over 65 is almost all vaccinated (over 80% of people aged between 65 and 79 have already had at least one dose of the vaccine), has a great influence on the epidemiological situation of the country since 96% of deaths declared in Portugal and associated to Covid were registered in age groups over 60. In this sense, the goal is to have the entire over-60 age group vaccinated by the end of this month.
These good results are also reflected in the number of hospitalisations and people admitted to intensive care. This Sunday, there were 245 people admitted to general wards, of which 76 were in intensive care units (ICUs). Gone are the days when ambulances used to queue up at hospital doors. In the first two months of the year, successive records were broken in this area: on February 1, 6,869 people were hospitalised for complications associated with Covid-19, an all-time high. Four days later a new record was broken, with 904 people admitted to ICUs.