Seats marked to help with social distancing are pictured inside Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport in west London as the UK government's planned 14-day quarantine for international arrivals to limit the spread of COVID-19 starts on June 8, 2020. (AFP/Adrian Dennis)
Portugal on Saturday denounced as "absurd" Britain's decision to exclude it from the list of countries to which Britons can travel without having to observe quarantine restrictions on their return.
The row comes as both countries record a coronavirus infections rate of 4,000 cases per million inhabitants, according to an AFP tally compiled from national data -- although Britain registers a significantly higher death rate.
"The question of quarantine is absurd," said Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva in an interview with state television station RTP.
"It's always horrible to compare the figures of an illness, and deaths," he said.
"But it's absurd that the United Kingdom is imposing a quarantine on passengers returning from a country that, with regard to all the indicators for the pandemic, has better results than the United Kingdom itself."
British visitors are the biggest part of Portugal's tourism market, with 2.1 million visitors in 2019 generating 3.3 billion euros.
Portugal's death rate for the coronavirus is at 156 per million inhabitants, while Britain's is at 650 -- with some observers there arguing the real death rate is higher.
But on Friday, when Britain announced a list of more than 70 countries or territories that would be exempt from quarantine measures from July 10, Portugal was one of the few EU countries not on the list.
Santos Silva acknowledged there was concern about a spike in infections in districts just north of Lisbon where lockdown measures have been reimposed.
But this should not affect holidaymakers traveling to the southern Algarve region, he argued.
Portugal was initially praised for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but on Wednesday, lockdown restrictions were reimposed on 19 neighbourhoods across the northern periphery of Lisbon. The restrictions concern some 700,000 people and will remain in place for at least two weeks.
With an average of 321 per day, the number of new cases being recorded in Portugal grew by a third in June compared to the previous month.
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