COVID-19: Brits warned to stay home after spike in Portugal

A cabinet minister has encouraged people to holiday in Britain this year after Portugal was removed from the UK’s green travel list and caused chaos after hundreds of families were forced to rush home.

Environment secretary George Eustice said he would be holidaying in Cornwall this year and advised families do the same, despite acknowledging it would be “very, very busy.”

George Eustice

Thousands of Brits scrambled to get home from Portugal on Monday to get home before the country was downgraded from green to amber on the UK’s traffic light travel system.

From 4am on Tuesday anyone arriving from the country must quarantine at home for 10 days.

Mr Eustice told Sky News: “Our advice has been don’t travel unless it’s absolutely necessary.

“Obviously we had hoped, with these three categories that we had, we had hoped that situation would be improving in other parts of the world, that we’d be able to progressively add other countries to the green list.

“Sadly, that’s not the situation, we do have this new variant of concern first identified in India that is now cropping up in other countries, and we’ve just got to take a very cautious approach.”

He added: “I will be staying at home, I have no intention of travelling or going on a holiday abroad this summer.”

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick also said that he will stay in the UK this summer.

He said: “Many people, myself included, are coming to the conclusion that we should all be staying home and enjoying the beautiful weather here in the UK.”

The government’s decision to downgrade Portugal to amber only weeks after it was put on the green list has angered many tourists and the travel industry.

The Department for Transport said the situation in the country “required swift action to protect the gains made with the vaccine rollout”.

It stated the positivity rate for coronavirus tests in Portugal had nearly doubled since the travel lists were first created four weeks earlier.

Mr Eustice also hinted at what needs to be done to ensure the planned June 21 date for lifting lockdown in England can go ahead.

He said the “critical test” ahead of the planned lifting of restrictions on June 21 will be whether those who are vaccinated are being infected.

“What we’re not seeing at the moment is that growth in hospitalisations associated with (infections) and that’s because we know that if people have the vaccine, particularly once they’ve had the second jab of the vaccine, it actually does give them immunity to this new strain that’s around,” he said.

Covid cases have been rising quickly in the UK in recent days, spurred on by the growth of the Delta variant (also known as the India variant) which has become the dominant strain in the country and is more transmissible.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons yesterday it was “too early” to tell if the planned lockdown lifting needed to be delayed.