Northern Ireland

Holidaymakers arrive back from Portugal with just hours to spare before country placed on amber list

Passengers queue for the Ryanair and easyJet check-in desks at Faro airport in Portugal to fly back before today's 4am requirement for travellers arriving from Portugal to quarantine for 10 days comes into force. Picture by Richard Furlong/PA Wire
Passengers queue for the Ryanair and easyJet check-in desks at Faro airport in Portugal to fly back before today's 4am requirement for travellers arriving from Portugal to quarantine for 10 days comes into force. Picture by Richard Furlong/PA Wire Passengers queue for the Ryanair and easyJet check-in desks at Faro airport in Portugal to fly back before today's 4am requirement for travellers arriving from Portugal to quarantine for 10 days comes into force. Picture by Richard Furlong/PA Wire

HOLIDAYMAKERS arrived back home to Northern Ireland from Portugal with just hours to spare before the country was placed on the so-called 'amber list'.

Many travellers were forced to cut short their trip to return before today's 4am deadline with numerous reports of people forced to pay high prices for early flights home.

A spokeswoman for Belfast International Airport said an EasyJet flight had arrived in at around 4pm yesterday, just hours before the new restrictions came into force.

She said the flight was packed with travellers.

Another EasyJet flight is due to arrive into the airport tomorrow, meaning those passengers will be required to self-isolate at home for 10 days after the Executive last week moved Portugal off the 'green list' for travel.

Passengers are also legally required to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test result taken up to three days before departure or face a £500 fine.

EasyJet, which usually flies four times a week to Faro, has now reduced its flights by half. Jet2 also confirmed it is cancelling all flights and holidays until July 1 in the wake of this news.

Ryanair, which last operated out of Belfast City Airport 11 years ago, only resumed flights to Faro in the Algarve last week, just days before the 'green list' change came into force.

A spokeswoman for the City Airport said there were no flight arrivals from Portugal yesterday ahead of the change in regulations.

It comes as it emerged today that the isolation period for people arriving into the north from 'amber list' countries may be cut by half.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said the Executive is to consider the 'Test to Release' scheme when ministers meet on Thursday.

The scheme allows people who have travelled through amber countries in the previous 10 days to pay for a private Covid-19 test, which is carried out at day five of quarantine and isolation can end when the person receives a negative result.

They still have to take a compulsory test on day eight.

Ms Hargey said regulations for people arriving into Northern Ireland were "under constant review and consideration" and ministers would be looking at the mandatory 10-day isolation period tomorrow.

"Obviously we took the decision around the 10 days based on medical advice that was presented to us," she told the BBC.

"Again, we will be meeting this Thursday just to look at that in the round and I am sure it will be picked up again on Thursday."

She added: "I think it’s important that we work collectively as an Executive in terms of that pathway but that has to be based on the medical advice that we’re given, so I look forward to receiving that and reviewing it at Thursday’s Executive meeting".