Seats on the last flights back to London from the Algarve before Portugal is removed from the UK’s green list in less than four days’ time were on sale for up to £711 today as Britons faced a race to get home – with more than 112,000 in the country on holiday.
Britons keen to stay abroad for as long as they can before the new rules come in next Tuesday at 4am face paying at least £258 if they fly back home the night before. That is the cheapest flight next Monday, a WizzAir route leaving Faro at 9.05pm local time and arriving at London Luton at 11.50pm, four hours before the rules change.
Anyone flying back today faces paying at least £99, also for a WizzAir flight to Luton; while it is £91 on Saturday or £172 on Sunday, both for easyJet services to Gatwick. The most expensive seats before Tuesday’s deadline can be found for £711 on a British Airways service from Faro to London City, leaving next Monday at 11am.
Those returning from an amber list country will be required either to quarantine at home for ten days on their return and take a PCR test on days two and eight, as well as a lateral flow test before the return flight. Or they can pay for an additional third ‘Test to Release’ on day five to end self-isolation early. They will still need to take the compulsory second test on or after day eight.
British families of four in Portugal now face having to pay £1,500 to buy three sets of PCR tests at £125 each, if they go under the ‘Test to Release’ scheme. Adding this to the cost of a lateral flow test, which can be bought at Faro Airport for €30 (£25), the total cost for a family of four would be about £1,600.
Holidays to Portugal have been thrown into chaos after ministers removed the European country from the travel green list amid concerns over the new Nepal coronavirus variant. The move triggered a furious diplomatic row, with Portugal’s president accusing UK ministers of ‘health fundamentalism’ and of being ‘obsessed’ with infection rates.
It also sparked a race among thousands of Britons in Portugal to get back before quarantine-on-return rules kick in on Tuesday. Those booked to go in coming weeks were left in limbo over whether to go ahead with their holiday under the tougher quarantine rules or to rebook for later in the summer and hope the country goes green again.
The decision to move Portugal onto the ‘amber list’ was apparently triggered by concerns over the Nepal variant, a mutated version of the Indian strain. But Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Portugal’s president, has accused UK ministers of ‘not recognising that we live in a different situation than we lived before vaccination’.
Mr Rebelo de Sousa added: ‘The numbers are going up, but they are not increasing inpatients and ICU numbers and deaths. We can’t keep obsessively looking at it this way, ignoring that with vaccination, reality has changed.’
Jet2 has cancelled all international flights and holidays up to July 1 and Easyjet will ‘review’ its flights after Portugal was pulled from the green list.