Coronavirus: Holidays in Portugal boosted by air bridge talks

Graeme Paton, Transport Correspondent

Thursday June 04 2020, 12.01am BST, The Times


Easyjet has introduced new safety and wellbeing measures for customers and crew


Britons were given hope of a summer holiday in Portugal yesterday after its foreign minister confirmed he was in talks with the UK government over an “air bridge” between the countries.

Augusto Santos Silva said that an agreement could be in place to allow holidaymakers to travel by the end of this month, warning that blanket quarantine measures were the “enemy of tourism”.

It raises the possibility of establishing quarantine-free travel agreements between the UK and countries that have successfully controlled coronavirus this summer.

Should the UK implement a travel quarantine even if it damages the economy?

Figures from TravelSupermarket, the price comparison website, showed that searches for package holidays to Spain have increased by 52 per cent in the past fortnight. They increased by 51 per cent to Greece and 38 per cent to Portugal, with companies cutting prices to secure bookings.

Emma Coulthurst, travel commentator at the website, said: “There are more people searching for a holiday now for this summer than there were at the beginning of May. Talk of air bridges and countries opening up to tourism appears to be getting people searching and comparing prices.”

Mr Santos Silva suggested that a deal could be in place by the end of this month, although he said that nightlife in Portuguese resorts would be limited and people would not be allowed to congregate in groups at night. Hotels and apartments that comply with standards set by the tourism board would be labelled as “clean and safe”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “Our diplomats will work together to guarantee that British tourists coming to Portugal would not be subjected on their return to England to any kind of quarantine.” Portugal has recorded 1,436 deaths from coronavirus.

London City Airport announced yesterday that it would resume scheduled flights by the end of June, three months after it was shut by a collapse in passenger demand.

The airport will introduce temperature checks on departure and arrival to flag up passengers with a fever. Automated video technology will be deployed that can detect areas with a “high concentration of passengers”, with travellers then directed to quieter parts of the airport.

Edward Argar, a health minister, said it was hoped that people “will be able to go on holiday” this year, but did not give a date.

Easyjet has said it would fly to half of its 1,022 routes across the UK and Europe by the start of July, while Ryanair, Tui and Jet2 have also announced the resumption of operations.

Eurocontrol, which co-ordinates air traffic across the continent, showed that the number of flights in Europe topped 6,000 on Tuesday for the first time since the end of March. There were 6,009 in total, although traffic is still 84 per cent down on normal levels. In the UK, there were 819 flights on Monday, which was the second highest daily total since the lockdown started.

Great beaches and vibrant towns that are easy on the wallet 

Portugal has grown in popularity in the past decade, with more than three million Britons taking holidays there last year (Ben Clatworthy writes).

With its sweeping beaches, vibrant towns and hilltop castles, the country could be among the first to welcome British tourists once travel restrictions are lifted.

The beaches of the Algarve have long been the big draw for families, while surfers are attracted to the waves of Sagres, Europe’s most southwesterly point. But the epic coastline is only half the story.

The central Alentejo region, where miles of empty roads are fringed by vineyards, cork trees and menhirs — the prehistoric relics that dot the countryside — has grown in popularity in recent years.

Lisbon, the capital, has emerged as a city break hotspot celebrated for its cobbled streets, ancient trams and buzzy little bars.

Portugal is home to some of Europe’s best and least expensive food and drink; from marinated meats to freshly caught grilled fish, hearty cheeses and young wine from the far north of the country. The Portuguese have mastered the art of simple but delicious meals.

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