With flights closed and quarantine imposed, Portuguese are looking for Covid-19 return options in the UK

Melissa Real, like many Portuguese who visited Portugal, was surprised by the introduction of a controlled quarantine in a hotel room on her return to the UK, which is why she is already considering alternatives.

“At the moment the idea for us to be able to return is to spend a month in another European country where there are no border restrictions, for example in Italy or Spain, and to fly from there since the hotel quarantine for European countries this only applies to Portugal, ”he told the Lusa agency.

The 31-year-old computer programmer, who lives in London, traveled to Portugal with her companion on December 21, already under tightened restrictions, and was aware of the risk of hardening, but the fact that both can continue to work remotely leaves some returns to flexibility in plans.

Most notably, she refuses to adhere to a ten-day quarantine in a government-designated hotel room, a measure introduced on February 15 for people arriving from Portugal who would have to pay for them.

Guests are required to stay in the room at all times, with a few short breaks to smoke or to get air under the surveillance of security guards, which has already led to some protests.

“Definitely not. The £ 1,750 (2020 Euros) is per head, not even per room, and the area we would return to, Gatwick, is just miserable. Nobody deserves to pay so much to stay in that To be trapped in space, fed in what the hotel offers, just like a hermit, ”said the Lisbon native.

Melissa Real is ready to wait, but dance school owner Carlos Custódio is starting to worry about his return as the deconstruction plan announced by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson allows him to resume activity on December 12th.

“I have to go back to prepare things, meet with my co-workers, and do some work. I’ve already thought of going to Spain, staying ten days and then traveling, but the borders are closed. I have someone who could take me by truck, but it’s risky, ”he admits to Lusa.

Truck drivers are one of the few exceptions to professions that are exempt from hotel quarantine, but penalties for breaking the rules are high.

By February 16, four passengers at Birmingham Airport had been fined £ 10,000 (£ 11,500) for failing to declare they had traveled from a ‘Red List’ country, but the sanction could be up to ten years Prison amount.

According to the border guards [Border Force]Paul Lincoln, only 1% of the UK’s roughly 15,000 international arrivals are currently subject to hotel quarantine, which is 150 people a day, he said last week.

“Disproportionate and unfair”

Portugal was added to the list of 33 countries, mainly from Africa and South America, because of ties with Brazil, as the UK wants to avoid importing people infected with variants with mutations of the coronavirus that cause Covid-19.

The requirement of quarantine in a guarded hotel room applies to all persons who have been in one of these countries in the past ten days. Therefore, a longer layover in another country is an option that more Portuguese are discussing on social media.

The benefit is not only that they potentially save money, but that they can be quarantined in the comfort of their own home when they arrive in the UK. This is also the preference of Ana Rita Franco, actress and manager of a school for musical theater classes.

“I’ve tried to go back before [de começar a regra dos hotéis], but ticket prices have gone up. For me the cost is impossible, ”he claimed, still unsure when to return to the apartment where he continues to pay rent.

The Portuguese Ambassador to the UK, Manuel Lobo Antunes, rebelled against the “enormous financial burden”, describing the measures as “disproportionate and unfair” in an article published Friday in the Daily Telegraph.

“In my opinion, exposing a person to an extreme quarantine regime under security surveillance for a period of ten days and at their own expense should not be considered,” he argued.

The diplomat shows hope that the improvement in the epidemic situation in Portugal in recent weeks will result in the removal of the “black list” and compliance with quarantine by Portuguese and British travelers coming to the UK from Portugal “in the warmth and in the Comfort of their own homes ”.

The UK government says it will keep this measure under “on-going evaluation” but has no date for a possible change to remove or add more countries to the list.

Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said the restrictions on international travel are expected to remain in place until May 17, pending changes to a study of risk mitigation measures due by April 12.

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