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What does Portugal’s move to the amber list mean for your holiday?

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

The government has confirmed that Portugal has been moved to the amber travel list in the first three-weekly review of the travel traffic light system.

The announcement, which includes the Portuguese island regions of Madeira and the Azores, comes as a blow to the travel industry and tourists, with the holidays of thousands of Brits plunged into chaos.

People arriving in the UK from amber countries need to quarantine at home for 10 days and take PCR Covid-19 tests on or before day two and on or after day eight after returning home.

Anyone arriving back in England from a green list country needs to be tested but isn’t required to quarantine.

The government has moved Portugal to the amber list from 4am on Tuesday due to variants of concern and emerging mutations including the ‘Delta variant’.

Seven countries – Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Trinidad and Tobago – have also been added to the red list. All changes to the lists will come into effect at 4am on Tuesday 8 June.

According to the government, the situation in Portugal has required swift action to protect the gains made with the vaccine rollout. There has been an almost doubling in the Covid-19 test positivity rate in Portugal since the first review for traffic light allocations, far exceeding the ONS estimated national positivity rate in the UK.

The government is particularly worried about 68 cases of the Delta variant of concern which have been identified in Portugal, including cases of the variant with an additional, potentially detrimental, mutation.

While the number of ‘green list’ destinations remains low, the government is urging the public not to travel to amber classified destinations to play their role in protecting public health. Ministers were accused of sending mixed messages about amber country holidays last month.

What can I do if I have a holiday booked to Portugal?

Kevin Pratt, personal finance expert at Forbes Advisor UK, said: “If you’ve booked a holiday to Portugal or to any other destination that moves from green to amber on the government’s list, your holiday provider should allow you to change your booking.

“You might not be willing or able to change straight away given the lack of green destinations, but you should have a grace period where you remain in credit with the company. If you decide to go ahead with your trip, assuming it is possible, remember that doing so could invalidate your travel insurance – you’d need to check with your insurer.”

If the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice is not to travel, your travel insurance policy is likely to be voided. However, the FCDO has not advised against all but essential travel to Portugal. If it does, holidaymakers should be able to claim for cancelled holidays on their travel insurance.

Wherever you are planning or hoping to travel this year, having travel insurance which includes Covid-19 cover is crucial. This will cover you if you or a family member fall ill with the virus before you depart, and may provide extra funds to pay for the costs you incur if you are obliged to stay in quarantine while you’re abroad.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, said: “Many people who booked holidays to Portugal believing it would be a safe bet are going to now face difficult decisions over whether to travel against government advice and quarantine on their return, or potentially lose the cost of their holiday. Few tour operators and no airlines allow for refunds when a country changes from green to amber, and rebooking very often involves paying more money.

“The government should take greater responsibility for making sure travelers are not left out of pocket when changes are made to its travel lists. A crucial step towards this would be to ensure destinations on the amber and red lists also come with a warning against travel from the FCDO, which should trigger package holiday providers to offer refunds to those who can no longer travel.”