Portugal and Mauritius are to be removed from the government’s so-called "red list" of countries from which travel is effectively banned to guard against the import of new Covid-19 variants of concern.
From 4am on Friday (19 March), arrivals into England from Portugal and Mauritius will no longer have to self-isolate in government-appointed hotel quarantine for 10 days.
More than 30 countries were placed on the red list earlier this year owing either to their proximity to countries where new variants of Covid-19 were known to be circulating, or their common travel links with these countries.
In Portugal’s case, it was due to the Manaus, or Brazilian, variant of Covid-19, and Mauritius, a South African variant.
Both variants have been detected in the UK, with the government deploying local surge testing to identify new infections caused by a variant and break chains of transmission.
However, the Department for Transport late on Monday (15 March) said the decision to remove Portugal and Mauritius from England’s red list was based on new data that showed "the risk of importing a variant of concern from these destinations has reduced".
It means the direct flight and maritime ban on Portugal, including Madeira and the Azores, and Mauritius will be lifted.
"Portugal has put steps in place to mitigate the risk from its links with countries where variants have become a concern, and now has genomic surveillance in place," said the DfT.
It means that from 4am on Friday, arrivals into England from Portugal and Mauritius will now follow the same rules as arrivals from non-red list countries, which include a pre-departure test, and 10 days’ self-isolation at home with tests on day two and day eight.
Arrivals can use test to release to cut their self-isolation period to five days, although they will still be required to take a test on what would have been the eighth day of their quarantine.
The Foreign Office has amended its travel advice for Portugal to read: "If you are arriving in England from Portugal (including the autonomous regions of Madeira and Azores) on or after 4am on 19 March you will no longer be required to quarantine in a managed quarantine hotel.
"However, you will need to self-isolate on your arrival, unless you have a valid exemption."
Joao Fernandes, president of Algarve Tourism Bureau, said: "We have been able to overcome a second wave of coronavirus, to reduce the infections levels to some of the lowest in Europe.
"The Algarve has always been a favourite holiday destination with British holidaymakers and this announcement is a hopeful sign that we will soon be able to welcome them back in early summer.
"The Algarve offers so much as a holiday destination and last year we were distinguished as the best beach and best golf destination in the world.
"We can’t wait to welcome back British visitors and share our beautiful region with them once more."