Tourism suspended between Spain and Portugal - is it safe to travel to Portugal?

Portugal and Spain are suspending tourism between the neighbouring countries in a move to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Spain declared a national emergency over the weekend, meaning its 47 million residents are now to self-isolate and tourists to remain in their hotels.

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Portugal has not yet declared a national emergency but it is anticipated it will follow other countries in Europe.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said travel restrictions on the land border between the two countries should guarantee that free movement of goods continues and protect the rights of workers, but that “there must be a restriction (on travelling) for the purposes of tourism or leisure”.

“There will be no tourism between Portugal and Spain in the coming months,” he said, adding that the measure is important as there is a significant flow of tourists between the two countries during the fast-approaching Easter season.

Is it safe to travel to Portugal?

The UK government has issued some travel restrictions to Portugal, stating: "The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all but essential travel to the archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores due to travel restrictions related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic."

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"The Portuguese authorities have introduced a number of precautionary measures in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Portuguese government has suspended all flights to and from all regions of Italy until 24 March. If you’re due to travel to Italy, contact your airline or travel company for the latest information. See Health"

It adds: "Further information on coronavirus, including advice on preparing for foreign travel and helping reduce the spread of the virus, is available from Public Health England and on the TravelHealthPro website."

However, Portugal's flagship airline TAP had initially cancelled around 1,000 flights throughout March and April after concerns that the epidemic has led to a decline in bookings. Last week, they announced closing a further 2,500 flights, up until May.

TAP is 50 per cent state owned and said that cancellations would mainly affect flights from Spain, Italy, and France but also some international flights (outside of the EU).

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In a statement, the airline said, "The drop in demand naturally means lower revenues, therefore TAP has decided to suspend all non-critical investment, review non-essential spending cuts and suspend hiring".

Can I cancel my holiday to Portugal?

If you intend on travelling to Portugal in the next few days, and your flights are unaffected, then it is unlikely you will receive any money back for your bookings.

Unless the airline cancels flights, or hotels close, etc., then companies probably won't give you a refund if you are concerned. However, the best action is to contact your holiday, hotel, or flight provider and discuss with them what your options are.

Unless the Foreign Office changes its travel restrictions for Portugal, then hotels do not need to issue refunds. But you may be able to change the date of your stay, and if the hotel is part of a large chain try and see if you can change location.

The advice for everyone is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and use alcoholic hand gel. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.