Portugal will allow visitors from the UK to enter the country from Monday next week, bringing relief to thousands of UK tourists and football fans.
Chelsea play Manchester City in the rearranged Champions League final on May 29 at the Estadio do Dragao in Porto with many fans having already bought plane tickets and booked accommodation. And it now seems they will not be forced into travel ‘bubbles’ either.
Thousands more tourists had booked holidays in anticipation of a post-lockdown celebration after Portugal was added to the UK’s green list, and they were preparing to travel from Monday.
But all their plans were plunged into doubt after it emerged Portugal’s own travel restrictions for non-EU countries, which apply to the UK, may not be lifted until May 30.
However, the country’s official travel website, Visit Portugal, has now published a statement confirming British tourists can enter Portugal from midnight Sunday.
Chelsea and Man City fans celebrated their fantastic semi-final triumphs last week. They are now destined for Portugal, after the Champions League final on May 29 was moved
‘The Portuguese Minister of State for Foreign Affairs announced today that British tourists will be allowed to enter Portugal as of 00:00 17th of May, the statement said.
TRAVEL TRAFFIC LIGHT
It is currently still illegal for Brits to travel abroad for non-essential reasons but this will change on May 17, when people will be allowed to fly to countries with low Covid infection rates.
Travellers to countries on the ‘red list’ will have to quarantine for 10 days in a government-approved hotel on their arrival in the UK.
Those coming from ‘amber list’ countries, which includes Switzerland, where UEFA is based, will be required to self-isolate at home for 10 days, taking covid test on day two and eight.
While those returning from countries on the ‘green list’, which is set to include Portugal, will not have to isolate, but will have to take a test
This decision will revoke the essential travel restriction, that is in place until the 16th of May.’
Visitors will need to take a coronavirus PCR test within 72 hours of their departure to Portugal.
And with words that will warm the hearts of British visitors after 24 hours of uncertainty and anxiety, the statement ends: ‘We look forward to welcome all travellers coming from the UK.’
Ryanair were first out of the blocks announcing four extra flights to accommodate Chelsea and Manchester City supporters travelling to the Champions League final, following ‘huge demand’.
The flights from Stansted to Porto and Manchester to Porto return go out on Friday May 28 and return Sunday May 30.
The direct flights are priced at £565 return, compared to around £100 for a typical weekend round-trip.
The new Ryanair flights come after Mariana Vieira da Silva, Portugal’s cabinet affairs minister said that fans will ‘come and return on the same day, with a test done, in a bubble situation, on charter flights’ and be in Portugal ‘less than 24 hours’.
However, UEFA is confident that fans will be able to travel independently. Portugal is now opening its borders and there are no restrictions on other visitors.
The Portuguese authorities are keen to encourage supporters to be part of club travel plans and would like as many to join those schemes as possible. But it will not be a necessity.
UEFA’s president, Aleksander Ceferin, met with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to discuss the Champions League final being held at Wembley, but the pair could find no agreement
UEFA were under pressure to change venue for the final with Turkey on the UK’s ‘red list’
Chelsea and City are chartering flights for fans to attend the final with travel from the airport to the stadium also expected to be part of the package.
The crisis blew up on Thursday. It came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the UK’s restriction on foreign travel would be lifted, meaning people will be able to travel to green list countries such as Portugal without self-isolating on their return.
But guidance published on the Portuguese government’s website on Thursday stated that ministers had approved a move to continue the current level of lockdown.
Manchester City and Chelsea have booked their places in the Champions League final
Meanwhile, UEFA was desperately trying to find a city to stage the Champions League final, after it was forced to abandon its plans for the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul due to a devastating coronavirus outbreak.
The UK government took the European football governing body, Chelsea, Manchester City and the Turkish football authorities by surprise when it announced Turkey would be on the red travel and list and English fans should not attend the match.
Despite ‘exhaustive’ talks between UEFA and the UK government hopes that Wembley may host the game were dashed because Britain could not agree to waive covid exemptions for more than 2,000 VIPs, guests and staff, who were due to attend the game.
Early this week, Portugal emerged as a favourite to take the all-English final and supporters began booking flights in anticipation.
The 50,000-capacity Estadio do Dragao in Porto has been lined up as the venue for the final
By the time UEFA officially announced the match would be staged at Porto’s 50,000-capacity Estadio do Dragao with at least 12,000 Chelsea and Manchester City fans in attendance, flights were already selling out.
Almost immediately, fans’ and tourists’ plans were thrown into chaos when it emerged they may not be allowed to enter Portugal, after all.
Portugal had been expected to lift its ban on European tourists entering its borders, but there was confusion amid reports the ban could be extended to May 30.
A meeting of the Portuguese cabinet extended the country’s official ‘state of calamity’ until the end of the month, but there was no clarity on travel.
Manchester City and Chelsea will face off in the fixture, which was set to take place in Istanbul
The situation was complicated by the fact that Portugal was following guidelines set down by the European Commission. The Portuguese had reportedly believed the rules would be lifted by the Commission on Sunday, but in fact they are not due to be reviewed until next week.
The matter was considered delicate because Portugal currently holds the EU presidency and as a result it was apparently reluctant to make a unilateral move.
Intensive discussions between the UK government and the Portuguese authorities, with top level representation from UEFA followed. An announcement was planned for the weekend, but with pressure mounting and British tourists panicking, the finalists and their fans in limbo, it appears to have been brought forward.