Britain is involved in a diplomatic quarrel with Portugal over quarantine because its Home Secretary denied that it was a high risk and said the UK was in the worst position in its response to Covid-19.
With Portugal threatened with exclusion from Britain’s “airlift” plan, Eduardo Cabrita said his country was “clearly not where the risk is” and that people should “just compare the data” to verify it.
“We are, in particular with the United Kingdom, underlining the obvious: Portugal has better public health indicators and better indicators of response to the pandemic than the United Kingdom,” he said.
“There is therefore no reason, according to all the comparative criteria, for the existence of any application of the quarantine rules to return to the United Kingdom.”
His comments, reported in the Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias, arrive as Britain prepares to announce Wednesday up to 50 countries to which vacationers can fly from July 6 without having to quarantine for 14 days at their return.
Portugal and Sweden are considered two of the European countries currently judged by the Joint Biosecurity Center of the United Kingdom as potential “red category” countries under the traffic light system which will allow green and orange countries to traveling in quarantine.
The controversy relates to an epidemic of coronavirus in Lisbon and its surroundings, forcing Portugal to reimpose a limited locking in 19 parishes and to limit the opening hours of the city, all the supermarkets, restaurants and service stations closing at 20 hours, with the exception of these.
Portuguese epidemiologists have said that the epidemic, which yesterday accounted for 85% of the country’s 457 new cases, is limited to the poorest areas of the city where tourists rarely go.
The Algarve, the third most popular destination in Europe for British vacationers, has a small fraction of the cases. Southern Portugal has only registered 612 cases since the start of the pandemic, and only 91 last week. No Covid-19 patient has died there for nearly two months.
“The Algarve and Madeira are two places where Covid-19 is with low expression, so I couldn’t believe [reports of Portugal’s possible exclusion]”Francisco Calheiros, president of the Portuguese Tourism Confederation, told The Daily Telegraph.
He said he left two meetings with the British ambassador to Portugal late last week, feeling positive, after being informed that the meetings of Anglo-Portuguese experts “had gone rather well “.
“I cannot foresee a summer without the British, so I hope everything will be fine,” he said, stressing that it was essential “not to lose the idea that the right place for that the British come on vacation is Portugal. ”
Citing the work that Portugal did behind the scenes to secure the Champions League final in Lisbon in August, Calheiros said he thought politics and lobbying could be blamed if Portugal were excluded from the listing.
“If the British are prohibited from coming to Portugal, someone will take advantage of it,” he said. “If you are a typical English family with two children who wants to come to the beach, spend a summer vacation, if you are not going to Portugal, you have another alternative and this alternative will benefit. Yes, I believe there is politics. Of course there are. “
Some experts believe that Portugal suffers because of its honesty in the publication of Covid-19, having tested more people per 100,000 inhabitants than all other European countries except five.
Prime Minister António Costa said the government was focused on protecting public health and “total transparency”, rather than trying to look good by testing less or failing to record deaths.
He said it was difficult to compare Portugal, which had tested 108,000 people per million, with a country that may have only tested 20,000 per million.
Portugal, which saw its reproduction rate of R increase slightly to 1.08 at the end of last week, is however threatened because of the British criteria.
This includes the prevalence of Covid-19 if the level of the disease in a country increases and the reliability of the country’s data.
It is understood that officials from Public Health England (PHE), who works with the Biosafety Center, are concerned about the community spread of the disease in Portugal, unlike the epidemic in Germany where it is limited to workers in one single factory.