Holidaymakers could face quarantine on return to Britain under new ‘red list’ alert system

The review is understood to make very few changes to the 74 destinations exempted from the 14-day quarantine in the first list of “safe” countries three weeks ago.

Portugal, which was controversially left out, remains fearful it will not be added to the list despite an intensive lobbying campaign.

Rita Marques, Portugal’s tourism minister, said she was concerned the country’s “red list” status would not change if the UK Government kept using the same infection rate criteria as before.

Manuel Lobo Antunes, Portugal’s ambassador, warned that the economic damage caused from effectively killing off the entire UK summer holiday trade would be “immense and lasting”. Portugal confirmed 229 new virus cases on Thursday, of which just 10 were in the Algarve.

Ministers have also set up a special Whitehall group to investigate how testing could be introduced either at UK airports or before arrival to open up travel with countries still with lockdowns.

It is unlikely before the autumn, but could enable arriving passengers to sidestep quarantine by testing negative for the virus.

Heathrow has offered to host a trial of the PCR testing equipment with Swissports, a ground-handling company, and Collinson Group, medical specialists.

The Department for Transport (DfT) is also considering regional “air bridges” which would allow travel to “low-risk” regions such as, for example, the Algarve, Madeira and the Azores but exclude Lisbon, which accounts for most of Portugal’s new cases.

Spain has been hit by outbreaks in Catalonia, Aragon and the Basque region with 2,615 new cases on Thursday, compared with a daily average of just 132 in June.

One town in south-east Spain was closed off on Thursday after 55 people who met at a bar tested positive for coronavirus. Authorities in Totana, Murcia, which has 32,000 inhabitants, were testing 300 people who were at a bar at the time of the outbreak on Wednesday.

Further north, the Catalan regional government is considering restricting people from going out at night in Barcelona to stop young people spreading the disease. Four million people in Barcelona and outlying towns were asked to stay at home to try to contain a surge in cases on Friday.

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