LISBON (Reuters) – Scrambling to save its tourism sector, Portugal said on Wednesday it would allow U.S. visitors into the country but added Nepal to a list of “red” nations amid worries about new coronavirus variants.
Portugal is now open to tourists from EU countries and Britain but they must show a negative COVID-19 test result on arrival. Since June 15, rules applied to UK visitors also apply to those coming from the United States, the government said.
Travellers from Japan, Australia, South Korea, China, Israel, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore and Thailand will also be able to travel to Portugal as long as their governments adopt equivalent reciprocal measures.
All travellers except children under age 2 must present a negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours before boarding. A rapid antigen test, taken 24 hours before boarding, is also valid.
Although travel restrictions were eased, the rules can be reviewed whenever needed and reimposed depending on the pandemic situation in each country, the government warned.
The decision to allow U.S. tourists into the country came after Britain’s announcement earlier this month that it would reimpose a quarantine regime for travellers coming from Portugal, a major blow to its sun-and-sea tourism sector, after a resurgence of reported infections there.
Official figures showed that around 1.2 million tourists from the United States visited Portugal in 2019 but only 135,229 managed to make it there last year as the pandemic grounded flights and forced countries to impose travel restrictions.
Portugal is lifting travel restrictions on some countries but imposing new rules on others. A ban on non-essential travel applies to all non-EU and non-Schengen zone countries not listed by the government as an exception.
Travellers from Nepal, where daily cases have been dropping but where the new variant of COVID-19 initially discovered in neighbouring India has been detected, must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
Nepal was added to a list of countries which also includes coronavirus-ravaged India and Brazil, as well as South Africa, where a new variant was also identified. People coming from these countries to Portugal must also only be travelling for essential reasons, such as work, family or health.
Portugal, which imposed a strict lockdown in January to tackle what was then the world’s worst coronavirus surge, has lifted most of its lockdown restrictions.
As a result the number of daily COVID-19 cases has resurged of late, though without any major spike so far in hospitalisations in contrast with earlier stages of the pandemic.
A total of 2.3 million of Portugal’s population of just over 10 million have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
(Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Mark Heinrich)