The government did not use the new “green watchlist” category on Portugal because it needed to “take swift action” to protect public health in the UK.
Portugal was moved straight from green to amber status on Tuesday (8 June) because of a rise in Covid-19 cases in the country and the emergence of a so-called “Nepal variant”.
The government’s decision meant that many holidaymakers had to rush back to the UK to avoid being forced to quarantine for 10 days on their return home.
This was despite the government introducing the green watchlist category to the traffic light system as part of the reopening of international travel from 17 May. The watchlist was designed to prevent sudden changes in a country’s status.
When asked about why Portugal was not given green watchlist status, aviation minister Robert Courts said: “We have always been clear that the green watchlist was something we could use where we were able to do so.
“We have equally always been clear that when the evidence requires us to take swift action, we would do that. The public would expect us to take action to protect public health, which is what we did in that instance.”
During the same debate, former prime minister Theresa May condemned the traffic light system as “chaotic” and asked why travel restrictions where tighter this summer than last year, despite the successful vaccine roll-out.