The government has announced that Portugal will move from the UK's green travel list to the amber list from Tuesday. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the decision to make this change follows an increase in cases and the identification of a new mutation of the virus in Portugal.
The decision means that people from the UK should no longer head to Portugal for holidays, and those who travel back from the country should self-isolate for ten days. With the final stage of Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown just a fortnight away, government officials are trying to cut any risk of this being jeopardised.
Portugal describes the move as illogical
While government officials believe that the move could help ensure the nation can continue its journey to freedom on 21st June, the Portuguese government has described the decision as illogical. Portugal’s Cabinet Minister of State for Foreign Affairs recently posted a tweet about the decision.
In the tweet, he wrote, "We take note of the British decision to remove Portugal from the travel “green list”, the logic of which we cannot understand. Portugal continues to carry out its prudent and gradual deconfinement plan, with clear rules for the safety of those who live here and those who visit us."
It is not just the Portuguese government that has questioned the decision to put Portugal on the amber list. The move has also been blasted by the travel industry, with officials stating that it could have a huge negative impact on both consumer confidence and jobs within the industry.
The move comes as part of the first review of the travel traffic light system being operated in the UK and will be mirrored by Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Several destinations have been added to the red list as part of this first review, but none have moved to the green list. The next review of the traffic light system is not due until the end of June.
Chaos for holidaymakers
When Portugal was initially added to the green list for travel, vast numbers of lockdown-weary travellers snapped up deals to enjoy a holiday there. However, those now sunning themselves in Portugal face a chaotic rush to get back home before the new rules come into force.
Additionally, there could now be chaos for the travel industry as a whole. Some travel companies fear people will start avoiding travel again like they did last summer because of the risks.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, told the BBC's World Tonight programme: "I think we could get back to where we were last summer with people just not wanting to book because of the risk."
He added that the travel industry was being sacrificed to push ahead with ending domestic restrictions on 21st June. The full reopening of the country is still on course, despite concerns from many scientists and government officials over the risks involved. The Prime Minister will make a final decision on 14th June after the most recent data has been analysed.
Travel industry groups have also said that if things do go the same way as last summer, a huge amount of support will be needed to protect jobs.