Portugal leaves UK tourists on tenterhooks over travel

FILE PHOTO: General view of Praca da Figueira amid the coronavirus pandemic in Lisbon, Portugal, May 11, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

LISBON (Reuters) - British holidaymakers are on tenterhooks as Portuguese authorities have yet to decide whether the country will allow them to visit from next week even after Britain's government cleared them to go, prompting a surge in bookings.

Britain added Portugal to a "green" list of foreign destinations a week ago, allowing Britons to travel there from May 17 without needing to quarantine when returning home.

But Portugal has not made clear whether UK tourists will indeed be allowed to enter and under what conditions.

Current European Union rules prohibit non-essential travel from outside the bloc - leaving those who have already booked flights and hotels in limbo as to whether they could be turned away at the border.

A cabinet meeting on Thursday was widely expected to reach a decision on the matter but none was announced. A spokesperson for the interior ministry, which is responsible for border announcements, said the authorities were working on the issue and a decision would be announced when it was ready.

The British Embassy in Lisbon said it had no further information on when a decision would be made. Prime Minister Antonio Costa's office declined to comment and the foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Under the new British rules, travellers to Portugal would only need to take one coronavirus test upon returning to the UK. Other popular European holiday spots for Britons like Spain and Cyprus are on the "amber list", meaning travellers would need to quarantine for 10 days upon return and take two tests.

Airlines and flight companies including Easyjet, Ryanair and TUI have put flexible booking policies in place in order to assure customers they will not lose their money if flights are cancelled.

EasyJet, for example, which over the last week added around 100,000 extra seats to Portugal for the summer, allows customers to change their flights for free up to two hours before departure. Customers will pay the difference if the new ticket is more expensive.

(Reporting by Lisbon bureau, Sarah Young in London; writing by Victoria Waldersee; editing by Andrei Khalip and Mark Heinrich)

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