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Portugal’s removal from the green list of countries has been described as a disaster for the travel industry. The country had been seen as the one ray of sunshine for UK holidaymakers, and the decision will be a serious blow to the country’s tourism industry. It’s all the more baffling as it comes less than a week since 15,000 British football fans were allowed to travel to Porto to watch the Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester City.
I am due to fly back from Portugal shortly. What does this mean for me?
Portugal will shortly become an amber-list country – the change will take place at 4am on Tuesday – meaning that anyone arriving back in England after the deadline, which was announced on Thursday, has to take a negative pre-departure Covid test. They will also have to pre-book two lab-based PCR tests before they get on the flight home.
Once home, they will have to isolate for 10 days, and take those PCR tests on days two and eight. There is also the option to use the test-to-release system on day five, which in reality allows users to leave quarantine on day seven at the earliest.
The cost of the new extra tests required for a family of four will easily top £1,000.
If you can get back into the UK before the country moves to amber, then you only have to take a PCR test on day two, and you don’t need to quarantine.
I’m due to travel to Portugal next week. Can I still go?
There is nothing to stop you going, provided you are willing to comply with the extra testing regime on your return. Most of the flights should continue to operate.
If the Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to Portugal, then you could still go, but most travel insurance policies would be invalidated. A few insurers will provide cover, but you may have to buy a new policy.
I have booked a package trip. Will I be refunded?
Only if the Foreign Office bans non-essential travel, at which point the tour operator would have to cancel your holiday and you would be entitled to ask for a full refund. If the country is simply moved to the amber list, tour operators are not required to cancel. In reality, many tour firms would be likely to offer to move the holiday (again) but they are not required to do so by law.
Travellers who unilaterally decided to cancel would lose their money – according to their booking’s terms and conditions.
I have booked my own accommodation and fights. Will I be refunded?
Sadly, most providers will be under no obligation to refund you. The airlines were mostly offering fee-free changes to encourage people to book, so dig out your booking to check the terms.
Many hotel sites such as Booking.com offer the chance to cancel until 24 hours before arrival, but those with non-refundable bookings have lost their money.
Airbnb hosts set their own cancellation policies, meaning some people will lose all or half of their reservation’s cost, depending on the terms. Airbnb’s service charges are generally not refundable.
Will my travel insurance cover me?
Almost certainly not. A very small group of people who booked their holidays way before Covid – before March 2020 – may find that they can claim on their annual travel policies. Everyone else will find their cancellation claim denied.
I am due back at work, but will now have to quarantine for 10 days. What are my employment rights?
Those who have been working from home will be likely to carry on as before. However, if your job requires you to be on the premises, you face a difficult conversation.
Andy Davies, of the HR and payroll firm MHR, said hardline employers are entitled to make their workers either take more paid holiday, or unpaid leave, for the quarantine’s duration. “The most benevolent employers will want to look after staff and allow them to take paid holiday, but they could insist on unpaid leave,” he said.
I’ve got a holiday in Portugal booked in the school holidays. What should I do?
A lot of people will be in this boat, but the best advice at the moment is to do nothing, although you might want to start looking into UK campsites as a fallback option.
If you unilaterally cancel the trip now, you’ll lose the money, so the best option is to hope that things improve and the trip is able to go ahead. If conditions worsen considerably, the tour operator will be forced to cancel, in which case you are entitled to a full refund.
Hold your nerve, but start thinking about which friends might have a tent to spare.