Dame Irene Hays' disappointment over removal of Portugal from 'green' travel list

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The owner of Sunderland-based Hays Travel has spoken of her disappointment at the Government’s decision to take Portugal off its ‘green list’ of holiday destinations.

Removing the country means holiday makers must quarantine for ten days when they return home.

Dame Irene Hays said she was ‘surprised and obviously disappointed’ to hear of Portugal’s addition to the amber list for travel from the UK.

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She told Sky News she was ‘disappointed for our customers, disappointed for the travel industry and really disappointed for Portugal, because they’ve tried so hard and their infection rates are so low’.

Dame Irene Hays, owner of Hays Travel.Dame Irene Hays, owner of Hays Travel.
Dame Irene Hays, owner of Hays Travel.

"I know they’re rising in Lisbon, but it’s quite a way from the Algarve, which is where most of the tourists are,” she said.

Asked if she felt that nuance had not been taken into consideration, Dame Irene said: “It would be nice if it was a nuanced approach, but we are where we are.”

It was ‘difficult’ and ‘very frustrating’ for holidaymakers, particularly those who had just started their trips, she added.

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While some people were still booking holidays for the summer, Dame Irene said the ‘vast majority’ were instead booking for autumn or 2022.

The decision to move Portugal off the UK’s green list was ‘an overreaction’, an epidemiologist in the country said.

Professor Henrique Barros, president of Portugal’s National Health Council, said the overall situation in the country was ‘relatively stable’.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said positive cases had doubled in the last three weeks in Portugal and that although he appreciated the situation was ‘frustrating’, travelers had always been warned a country’s classification could change.

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But Prof Barros told Sky News: “We didn’t reach such an increase, except as I said in a specific area around Lisbon. The overall picture in the country, we didn’t reach such figures.”

Asked about Portugal being moved to the amber list for travel, he said: “I think it’s an overreaction. But of course you know that people moving from one country to the other, it’s obviously a risk for both countries, of course. We know that we should pay attention to the situation.”

He said it was mainly among people under 40 that a rise in infections was being seen, and that with people over 50 ‘we have a very, very low incidence of cases’.

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