Coronavirus in Portugal: All airports to lock down, but repatriation flights still running

The Portuguese government has announced moves to lockdown all airports in the country for five days over the Easter holidays in a bid to tackle the spread of coronavirus. However, with some British nationals still in the country awaiting flights back to the UK, will their wait be extended?

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The decision to close the airports to passenger traffic between 9 and 13 of April was described as an “extraordinary measure” by Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa in a press conference.

The good news is, that British tourists will still be able to return home.

The Prime Minister said the extreme measures would not cover “cargo flights or flights of a humanitarian nature, as well as flights necessary for the repatriation of Portuguese who have been displaced abroad, or state or military flights”.

It is likely any Britons still waiting to be brought home at that time will continue to be rescued as expected.

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Portugal: Airports to close across the country as coronavirus measures stepped up (Image: Getty Images)Coronavirus: Deserted streets in Portugal during lockdown (Image: Getty Images)

The government also used the meeting to extend its state of emergency for a further 15 days.

“If decreeing a state of emergency was necessary 15 days ago, it is essential that we renew it today,” Prime Minister Antonio Costa told parliament.

“All the effort we have made so far will be compromised if it does not continue.”

A ban on “any travel outside the municipality of habitual residence, except for people who have to travel to exercise professional activities” was also brought into place for Portuguese residents during the Easter period.

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People will now not be allowed to travel outside their home municipalities, except for work reasons, for five days.

Gatherings of more than five people are also banned, with the exception of close families exceeding that size.

Following Easter, airports are set to reopen, but will only be allowed to carry one-third of their passenger capacity.

At the time of writing Portugal has recorded more than 9,800 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 246 deaths.

Coronavirus in Portugal: Emergency measures have been ramped up (Image: Getty Images)

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Officials say they anticipate the virus to plateau at the end of May.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office is currently advising “British nationals against all but essential international travel”.

It additionally warns: “Flights from Portugal to the UK have reduced considerably.

“British Airways and Ryanair are operating regular flights from Lisbon to London Heathrow and London Stansted.

“This is subject to change, and availability may reduce further.”

Britons currently abroad are advised to make their own way home immediately where commercial routes are still running.

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“If you are in a country where UK-bound flights are still available, book or rebook your flight and return home as soon as possible,” advises the FCO website.

For those who are unable to secure a commercial flight, the government is setting up special repatriation flights.

In a national television address on Monday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced a partnership with UK airlines including British Airways, easyJet, Virgin, Titan and Jet2 to set up a repatriation effort.

Mr Raab explained: “Where commercial routes remain an option, airlines will be responsible for getting passengers home.

“That means offering alternative flights, at little to no cost where routes have been cancelled. And it means allowing passengers to change tickets, including between carriers.

“So for those still in countries where commercial options are still available, don’t wait. Don’t run the risk of getting stranded.”

Meanwhile, special charter flights will be advertised on the government website.

“Once special charter flights have been arranged we will promote them through the government’s travel advice and by the British Embassy or high commission in your country,” said Mr Raab.

“British travellers who want a seat on those flights will book and pay directly through a dedicated travel management company.”