Portugal: UK quarantine limitations ‘make no sense, have little impact’ – foreign minister

Augusto Santos Silva considered that “it makes no sense” for the UK to consider the Azores and Madeira safe destinations and not to exempt tourists from quarantine and admitted that British limitations have little impact.

The Foreign Minister, who was answering questions from journalists about Portugal’s exclusion from the British list of safe tourist destinations announced on Friday, assured that the government is “working on solutions” and “at all levels”.

Augusto Santos Silva, speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Parliament on “the strategic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the international environment”, made a point of rebutting criticism for reacting on Friday – when he considered London’s decision “absurd”, “wrong” and “disappointing” – saying “it will seem strange to no-one that the Portuguese Foreign Minister is fighting for Portugal’s interests”.

“That’s exactly what I swore to do when I took office,” he said.

Asked about the situation in the Azores and Madeira, which London considers to be safe destinations, but which nonetheless continues to impose a quarantine on travellers from those archipelagos on their return to the UK, Santos Silva considered that “it makes no sense for the British authorities to consider Madeira and Azores to be safe and not to draw the consequence that seems logical to us”.

On ways of circumventing the restrictions imposed on British who want to visit the Portuguese mainland, for example by car, the minister stressed that “the state is not a substitute for citizens’ decisions”, but admitted that the restrictions turn out to be ineffective.

“We are not in favour of measures like quarantine being effective, for reasons that are simple and logical. Just think that today anyone who went directly from Lisbon airport to London airport would be subject to a duty of self-isolation on arrival, but if they called at another European airport they would no longer have that duty,” he explained.

“So these measures have a relatively limited impact, particularly in comparison with the measures that seem to us to have an impact: the rules of breathing etiquette, the rules of social distance, the rules of personal protection and of others in circumstances where social distancing is more difficult,” he exemplified.

The minister stressed, however, that he is continuing to work with the British authorities so that they have “all the information they need to review their decisions”.

This work is based, he insisted, on “the need to assess the epidemiological situation on the basis of available indicators which provide a picture of the situation, and not just on the basis of a single indicator”, but also to understand “the concerns of the UK authorities and see how to respond to them”.

“And that is what we are working on and we hope to continue working on”, he said.

“We trust in the British decision-making capacity, we trust in the transparency of the information we provide and in the credibility of the information […] We believe in the reasons that assist us and we also believe that we will all be humble in facing the pandemic,” he said.