Portugal will reopen to British holidaymakers from 17 May, the country’s secretary of state for tourism Rita Marques has confirmed.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday morning (18 March), Marques said Portugal would reopen to Brits through a combination of vaccination and immunisation certification, and testing.
Asked by presenter Martha Kearney if Portugal was looking forward to welcoming British tourists this summer, Marques said the country hoped to welcome all British holidaymakers from 17 May.
The date matches the earliest possible date international travel from the UK will resume, subject to an ongoing review by the Global Travel Taskforce – which will report its findings on 12 April.
Marques’s comments come after the European Commission on Wednesday (17 March) set out its plans for its digital green pass, a formal EU-wide system to certify travellers Covid status which would allow them to travel freely within the bloc with certification of their vaccination or a recent recovery from Covid-19, or a negative pre-travel test for Covid-19.
The EU has also confirmed it will work with third countries, such as the UK, to ensure residents from non-EU countries can travel freely to the union.
"It will be a very straightforward and simple process," said Marques. "The [European] Commission has put forward a flexible and simple instrument that will be available both in digital and paper form.
"So British holidaymakers can present to the Portuguese authorities a certificate that advises they are vaccinated or that they have immunisation to the virus or that they have a negative test."
Asked whether Britain’s participation would rely on bilateral arrangements with EU member states, Marques reiterated the scheme would involve third countries.
"The Commission has adopted a kind of twin proposal to address the digital green certificates in third countries like the UK," said Marques. "The process needs to be straightforward for British holidaymakers in possession of a valid certificate.
"People need to get in, British holidaymakers need to get in to Europe. It doesn’t make any sense to think about this solution only for Europe. Travelling should be worldwide and for everyone."
Kearney pressed Marques on Portugal’s provisions for those who will not have had access to a vaccine by 17 May, such as younger people.
"One of the basic principles we have adopted here since the beginning is that we cannot exclude anyone, including those who have not been vaccinated," said Marques.
"The idea for those who have not been vaccinated is to allow them to get in and have their holidays here in Portugal if they test negative or they have an immunisation certificate that means they have been in contact with the virus before [and recovered]."
Marques was asked if she thought Portugal and more than a dozen other EU countries’ decision to suspend use of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine over concerns the jab could be causing blood clots had put people’s confidence in vaccines at risk, given the European Medicines Agency was yet to give an expert view.
She said it was important people listen to the authorities "that really know about the matter" but would not be drawn on the Portuguese government’s decision to suspend the vaccine’s use.
On confidence, she added: "We need to develop all the means to inform passengers on what tests, vaccines and other measures they need prior to travel. Communication is important.
"The key message I would like to pass is that travellers need to be informed before they travel. They can of course book their holidays and we welcome that, but information being updated continuously is the key step in order to restore confidence and reopen borders."