Portugal is planning an 'air bridge' with the UK - here's what that means, and when it could be open

Wednesday, 3rd June 2020, 11:29 am
Updated Wednesday, 3rd June 2020, 11:44 am

The country of Portugal has announced it is considering allowing UK visitors to its shores this summer, with a so-called 'air bridge' linking the two nations.

Portuguese foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva described travel quarantines as "an enemy of tourism".

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When might I be able to travel to Portugal?

Foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva announced that he hoped an agreement between the two countries would be in place by the end of June.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel is due to tell MPs later that plans for a mandatory 14-day quarantine for arrivals - due to begin on 8 June - is necessary "to prevent a second wave of the virus".

That would mean the earliest the any 'air bridge' could be in operation by is 22 June.

So, business as usual?

Not quite.

Even if the planned 'air bridge' does go ahead, there will still be social distancing measures in place when you land in Portugal.

Mr Santos Silva said "rules" would be in place to ensure people can holiday safely, and suggested that nightlife in Portuguese resorts this summer would be limited, with gatherings of people not allowed at night.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Tourists would be warned how full beaches are, so they could avoid crowded spots.

Hotels and apartments would also have to comply with standards set by the tourism board before they are labelled as "clean and safe".

Temperature checks will be in place at airports, and "random testing" on passengers is being considered.

What is an air bridge?

An ‘air bridge’ is simply a route between two countries where the outbreak of coronavirus is under control.

Such routes would allow tourists to travel freely between a number of approved countries, and avoid having to go into mandatory quarantine on either end.

Air bridges could potentially allow visitors from certain countries to circumvent the UK's mandatory self-isolating plans, which come into force from 8 June.

Passengers will have to provide their contact and travel information so they can be traced if infections arise, and could face random checks from public health authorities to ensure their compliance during the 14-day period.

But if proposals for so-called air bridges are approved, the UK government could make agreements to allow travel without quarantine with countries who have low rates of infection.

What about Spain?

The news comes as neighbouring country Spain announced visitors will also no longer have to undergo a two-week quarantine from 1 July - unless they're coming from the UK.

Spanish tourism minister María Reyes Maroto said British coronavirus figures "still have to improve" before Spain could receive tourists from the UK; there will be no early return by UK holidaymakers to Spanish beaches.

What is the UK's current international travel advice?

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently advises British people against all non-essential travel worldwide. This advice took effect immediately on 17 March, and while it initially applied for a period of 30 days, the travel ban is now listed as “indefinite”.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions,” said the FCO. “All countries may restrict travel without notice.”

That indefinite ruling remains in place, even as other countries begin to relax their measures; there's no telling how things will play out.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps recently said he would certainly not be booking a summer holiday at present.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme on 17 April, Mr Shapps said that "clearly people will want to see what the trajectory of this disease is in the next few weeks".

"I won't be booking a summer holiday at this point, let's put it that way."