UK travellers returning from Portugal to England will now have to quarantine for 14 days, just weeks after the country was put on the safe list.
The country is one of the most popular tourist destinations for UK travellers and many people already have holidays booked.
Here’s the latest travel advice, quarantine rules - and what to do if you already have a trip organised.
What are the changes?
Portugal has been removed from England’s travel exemptions list, meaning people returning to the UK from Portugal will have to quarantine for 14 days.
The changes come into effect from 04:00 BST on Saturday 12 September.
Already Wales and Scotland have imposed a mandatory two-week quarantine on travellers returning from Portugal.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps made the announcement about England’s new rules on Thursday 10 September.
On his official Twitter account, Shapps wrote: “Data shows we need to remove PORTUGAL (minus the AZORES and MADEIRA), HUNGARY, FRENCH POLYNESIA and REUNION from the Travel Corridor list to keep everyone safe.”
This means the new quarantine rules apply to travellers returning from the whole of mainland Portugal, but not to those returning from the Azores or Madeira.
Why are the Azores and Madeira not affected?
On Monday 7 September, the Transport Secretary announced the introduction of a more targeted approach to travel corridors which separates some islands from mainland countries.
This means that an area that presents a higher or lower public health risk to UK travellers “can be assessed separately to the rest of the country”.
Shapps said: “Through the use of enhanced data we will now be able to pinpoint risk in some of the most popular islands, providing increased flexibility to add or remove them – distinct from the mainland – as infection rates change.”
The UK Government’s regional policy will only apply to land that has a “clear boundary” – such as an island – and “internationally comparable data” on coronavirus cases, the Department for Transport (DfT) said.
Shapps said: “This development will help boost the UK’s travel industry while continuing to maintain maximum protection to public health, keeping the travelling public safe.”
Announcements on which islands and countries are being added or removed from the quarantine list will be made as part of a weekly process.
What do returning travellers have to do?
Travellers returning to England from Portugal after 4am on Saturday 12 September will have to self isolate.
Those returning to the UK will also be required to complete a free Passenger Locator Form, providing contact details and the address of where they plan to quarantine.
Shapps tweeted: “All travellers returning to the UK MUST complete a Passenger Locator Form by law. This is vital in protecting public health & ensuring those who need to are complying with self-isolation rules. It is a criminal offence not to complete the form and spot checks will be taking place.”
If you don’t complete the form before you arrive in the UK, it could take you longer to enter the country.
However, you can’t submit it until 40 hours before you’re due to arrive in the UK, and you must fill it out online.
When you arrive at the UK border, you can either:
- Show a printed copy of the document attached to your confirmation email
- Show the document attached to the confirmation email on your phone
Border Force officers will use the QR code in the document to check that you have filled it in correctly.
The government will use the information you give to contact you if you or someone you’ve travelled with develops coronavirus symptoms.
The government will also use this information to check that you are self isolating.
Travellers who flout quarantine can be fined £1,000, and up to £3,200 for not providing accurate contact details.
What if I had a holiday to Portugal booked?
As more and more countries are added to the quarantine list, holiday-goers with flights and hotels booked may be confused about what to do next.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said that travel insurance will remain valid for those who are already in quarantined countries until they return home.
ABI states that for people who booked and took out travel insurance for a trip to a country that has since been removed from the safe travel list should, in the first instance, seek a refund from the airline, accommodation provider or tour operator.
“Following that, any bookings done through a credit card may also be able to have costs recovered through section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act or via a ‘chargeback claim’,” ABI advises.
“Any new travel insurance policies taken out, or trips booked, since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and therefore a known event may contain some exclusions for cancellation so it is important to check what you are and are not covered for.”
Those who travel to listed countries after they have been removed from the safe list would “likely” find their insurance invalid according to ABI.
Are travel firms providing refunds?
Which? advises against cancelling your holiday as you won’t be eligible for a refund.
Instead, it suggests waiting until your flights and holiday are cancelled, as then you’ll be eligible for a refund.
The consumer watchdog says that if your flight or package holiday was cancelled that you are “legally entitled to a refund”.
However, Which? has reported on a number of firms that are “breaking the law over package holiday refunds”.
Large companies such as TUI, Ryanair, Love Holidays and Virgin Holidays are issuing vouchers for cancelled bookings. The law states that you are entitled to a full refund, so don’t accept a voucher if you don’t want to.
Refund credit notes are a safe option, following the announcement that the government confirmed them to be protected by the Atol scheme.
However, you are entitled to a cash refund if you prefer.
Which? states: “For package holidays, the company which took your money is responsible for issuing your refund – so if you booked with a third party agent, go direct to them.
“If it’s a single booking for a flight, ultimately it’s the airline who the contract is with regardless who you booked through. The third party may have to issue the refund, but it may be worth pressuring the airline rather than the agent to release the funds.”
In terms of whether airlines are issuing refunds, it depends.
“The good news is that if your flight was cancelled, you’re due a refund. This applies for all flights on any airline that departs from an EU country, as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the UK, and flights on any EU carrier from any airport,” Which? says.
Will my flights and holiday to Portugal be cancelled?
The introduction of the quarantine rules does not necessarily mean that your airline or travel company will automatically cancel the flight or holiday.
If the holiday goes ahead as planned, you won’t be eligible for a refund and you will have to quarantine on return.
You can amend your travel dates and accommodation dates if you’re sure you want to travel to the same destination with the same companies regardless of FCDO guidelines.
However, depending on your airline or travel firm, you could incur a charge for making these changes.