Broken promisesBy Paul Luckman, In Opinion · 11 Jun 2021, 01:00 · 1 Comments
When Boris Johnson put Portugal on the green list on 17 May he promised the tourism industry and therefore those planning a holiday abroad, that he would not make changes without giving the tourism industry three weeks’ notice. I am no mathematical genius, but Thursday to Tuesday is not even one week.
The airlines took Boris at his word and started laying on hundreds if not thousands of flights to meet the demand. Boris slammed the door in their faces last Thursday leaving thousands of visitors to Portugal scrambling to find earlier flights and the airlines struggling to accommodate them. But not all of them.
Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair told the BBC that many of his passengers are not changing their flights but have decided to stay put and return on their booked flights. Why? I can only speculate that many people are fed up with Boris constantly changing the rules to suit his agenda without any consideration of their circumstances. O’Leary went on to say: “Moving Portugal to the amber list isn’t based on any science or public health” he accused the UK government of making up the rules as they go along. It’s hard to argue with that point of view.
TUI have made similar comments to the press, the most relevant is that 50 percent of their passengers who have booked for the next few weeks have chosen not to cancel but to proceed with their holiday. Visitors I have spoken to have said they will return to the UK as originally booked but will not ‘isolate’ themselves very ‘rigorously’. They will however take the required tests.
Have many people made this decision? That they won’t isolate when they get back, or take the five-day option, take a test on day five and if it’s negative not isolate any longer?
This will become obvious in the next few days. How many flights will continue to arrive at Faro? Seventeen flights for the UK were due to arrive on the 8th, after the deadline expired. You can test people’s patience too far and perhaps hundreds of thousands of British families feel enough is enough. How can so many people effectively be monitored to see if they are self-isolating?
Many speculate that this withdrawal of Portugal from the green list is nonsensical. Portugal’s Foreign Ministry said “We take note of the British decision to remove Portugal from the travel ‘green list’, a decision whose logic is unfathomable”. That’s putting it politely. The vast majority of visitors from the UK are already fully vaccinated, or they have been tested negative for Covid-19. Most research is showing that such people are unlikely to transmit the virus to others, but as over 75 percent of the UK population have already been vaccinated it will be quite a challenge to find someone to pass the virus on to.
Any visitor in the Algarve will have noticed how carefully the authorities are controlling and upholding all the safety rules and regulations. You can’t even walk on to the beach without a mask, and only take it off when you are settled down socially distanced from others on the beach.
The vaccination programme in Portugal is moving at a fast pace, already many of the over 40’s have been vaccinated and the age groups are being reduced quickly. Vaccination centres are operating every day and vaccinating thousands of people, seven days a week.
INSA microbiologist João Paulo Gomes has said (at the time of going to press) that in Portugal only 12 cases of the so-called Indian variant of Covid-19 have been detected and not 68 cases, as announced by the UK.
I do wonder if countries like Spain, Italy, Greece, Malta etc have been putting political pressure on Boris to give them the green light status and arguing “Why not us?” when you have given Portugal the green light. Perhaps Boris decided the easiest answer was to move Portugal to amber rather than allowing others to get the green light. Then he can argue that he isn’t showing Portugal any favouritism.
It seems Boris is only focused on 21 June and doesn’t want any possible excuse for not fulfilling his ‘roadmap’ to take Britain out of all restrictions. That way he makes UK businesses very happy, but meanwhile by his action, thousands of people in the tourism industry, not just in the UK, are paying a dreadful price for his mismanagement and constant mind changing.
Enough is enough, restore the green light to Portugal, and sooner rather than later.