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Brits flock to Portugal's Algarve as quarantine rules lifted, airport struggles

Fri, 28th Aug 2020 14:15

By Catarina Demony

LISBON, Aug 28 (Reuters) - Portugal is sending border
control reinforcements to an airport in the sunny Algarve as
authorities struggle to cope with a surge in arrivals of British
tourists after quarantine rules were lifted last week.

The decision to send more officers to the airport in Faro on
Portugal's southern coast, a popular destination for Britons,
came after a picture shared online by a lawmaker on Thursday
showed a long queue of hundreds of tourists not social
distancing.

"Airport staff were all sent home, the airport is not at all
prepared for the flood of people coming in," one Twitter user
commented on the picture. "The English traded holidays in Spain
and France at the last minute to come to the Algarve.

"Special measures are urgently needed."

The number of passengers arriving from Britain has grown by
a whopping 190% since Portugal was removed from Britain's
COVID-19 quarantine list on Aug. 20, according to border and
immigration service SEF.

The picture was widely shared, with many accusing SEF of not
having enough staff to check passports.

In a statement on Friday, SEF said it was a one-off
situation when eight flights landed around the same time.

However, to deal with the surge in arrivals, a total of 12
extra border control officers were sent to Faro airport and 10
more will arrive on Sept. 1, SEF said, adding that from Monday
more electronic passport gates would also be operating.

Businesses in the Algarve, where the number of registered
unemployed in June jumped 216.1% year-on-year in July, were
eager to welcome back British visitors, the main source of
tourism for Portugal.

But it might be too late to make up for the losses.

"It is important to offset the huge losses we had throughout
the year but it will naturally not be enough to make up for the
crashes up until August," said Eliderico Viegas, president of
Algarve's AHETA hotel association.
(Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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