Quarantine: UK must take a regional approach

Take a look at the COVID-19 statistics

A map showing the distance between the regional resort of Madeira and Lisbon

This morning, as the Times reports that tens of thousands of British holidaymakers are in limbo as “quarantine measures looked all but certain to be reimposed on Portugal a fortnight after it was put on the “safe” list”, it is time to for the “experts” advising the politicians to dust off an atlas and appreciate each one of the 968 kilometres that separate autonomous regional entity Madeira from Lisbon.

The UK authorities say they want to “keep it simple”, and yes, you could argue that the Balearics are so close to Spain that there is a lot of travel between those islands and the mainland, and it is, therefore, difficult to distinguish between the two when it comes to deciding on quarantine rules. However, the Canary Islands are 1700 kilometres (more than 1000 miles) away with little appreciable travel between the two.

It is highly unlikely, from both a convenience and financial point of view, that somebody testing positive on the continental mainland would choose to fly to either Madeira, the Azores, or the Canary Islands in order to travel onwards to the UK and avoid quarantine if these locations maintained their “travel corridor” status on a regional basis.

And what these independent, autonomous regional entiities have in common is a huge reliance on tourism for their income (I admit to a vested interest here, through our main sponsor Madeira Direct). They also share very good statistics, particularly Madeira, which has only counted 161 positive cases since March, with no fatalities. Part of this is due to having implemented fast and rigorous testing at the airport.

Take a regional view

It is about time that the UK government got something right and adopted a regional rather than country-wide view when deciding who quarantines and who doesn’t. Madeira might have a better chance at recovering financially if they do, and Brits could have the chance to visit the world’s leading island destination.

COVID-19 Updates

Updates are being added to last Fridays post for the time being

22 thoughts on “Quarantine: UK must take a regional approach”

  1. Ironically, Madeira has not exported one single case of Covid to the UK in the past months but we saw that a full plane that arrived from Greece to the UK had to quarantine because there were 7 infected people on board. Greece is in the “green” list…

    I don´t think there is a scientific background to put Madeira in the red list. Here´s why:

    1) The numbers: Madeira is well below the infections threshold defined by UK. Madeira tests a lot, about 70’000 tests on a 270’000 population. There are currently 0 (zero) infected people in hospital.

    2) Links to outside: As expected, we have new cases nearly cases every day because Madeira is testing everyone upon arrival. Even though the numbers fluctuate a lot up and down in Mainland Portugal and Europe in general, the numbers in Madeira have shown to be insensitive to those fluctuations and keep stable/low. There is no proven effect an increase of cases in mainland Portugal leads to an increase in Madeira aswell so the “links” between the two regions to not pose an increased threat to the UK.

    3) Our visitors: People who visit Madeira are here for a number of reasons but we don´t usually see groups of 20 or 30 travellers in bars like we see in the Algarve or Spain. That should be taken into consideration too.

    This looks more like an economic sanction than a sanitary criteria.

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  2. A very well composed post. And a very articulate contribution by Luis.

    However, do the Madeirans want loads of tourists wandering around potentially infecting the local population …. maybe best to just sit it out until there is a vaccine?

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      • There is a lot more at risk than tourism.
        I have been travelling several times a year for many years, I too miss Madeira,at present though it is not in my priorities.

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    • The only Madeirans (or an people living on the island) who want the tourists here potentially infecting themselves and their families are those who directly work in tourism. The majority do not. And the majority of visitors to Madeira are actually from Portugal, not Britain. Madeirans are not crying out for British people to save them as so many Brits would love to believe. Similar numbers of Germans and French come to Madeira anyway.

      I like how in your post philD you actually ask what the Madeiran people want, a lot of British tourists just assume what they want to assume. From the statistics that are coming out it seems that most are sensible enough to agree with you and sit it out till a vaccine is available,

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  3. philD I can´t speak for every Madeirean but I think people in the island do not consider tourists a particular threat as long as they comply with simple rules. From day 1 the government has told people that this virus does not care if you are madeirean, mainland portuguese, british or other nationality and therefore all the measures have been directed towards everyone, residents included.

    It is not just the economical impact, visitors are also culturally and socially part of Madeira even if your job is not dependent on tourism. Most people only known Funchal like that so they are looking forward (even if gradually) to look things back to normal.

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  4. I have a letter from Grant Schapps UK secretary for State tor Transport etc where he states that for Covid infection purposes as there is unrestricted travel between the Azores, Madeira and the mainland Should one have a high level of infection then all three will be removed from a quarantine free requirement on arrival in Britain
    This was in response to my question to him why there was no unrestricted travel from Madeira
    I understand from travellers quarantine and testing is not imposed at UK airports
    They should learn from Madeira!!

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    • “As there is unrestricted travel between the Azores, Madeira and the mainland”.

      It is not true that there is unrestricted travel since all people travelling from the mainland and Azores to Madeira need to show a negative test. I am afraid that the portuguese government is not being able to clarify this with UK FCO.

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  5. I’m a little confused re the mask rules in Madeira and wonder if you can explain/help?

    I read somewhere that masks are compulsory “outdoors” and in “enclosed public spaces”.

    Does that mean masks are needed when walking around town? In restaurants? In hotels?

    When I look at the online webcams I can’t see any masks being worn! So a little confused!

    Thanks

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  6. Jamie, Funchal yesterday was a little hit and miss. I went to LaVie where masks are compulsary and being worn inside and just outside, but as soon as you move further away from buildings with compulsory rules like government buildings and shopping centres people are removing them. When it gets to a point where you are the only one wearing one you join the crowd! I am afraid I am guilty of breaking this law!

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  7. It is important that people (including visitors) realize the rule exists and can be enforced by law. The fact that is not being enforced right now it will not be tomorrow, nor can the group behavior justify breaking the rules. If you drive from A to B at 5mph without a seat belt, the law still exists and can be enforced. You can always try to justify to authorities that you are driving at low speed, or you can tell them you saw other people driving without a seat belt but none of that means you are not breaking rules.

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  8. Good point Luis.

    Watching Breakfast TV this morning it looks very much like Portugal will need quarantine. But why should it be imposed on visitors to poor Madeira with possibly one of the best records anywhere with coronavirus and needing tourist business urgently.

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  9. Does anyone know what the situation is with other nationalities travelling to Madeira regarding quarantine? i.e. do Germans have to quarantine for 2 weeks when they return home to Germany? Or have any other nations implemented the ‘regional approach’ we all want the UK to use whereby they treat the mainland and the islands differently?

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  10. Ridiculous that some civil servant cannot distinguish between the suburbs of Lisbon, where the Portuguese contagion is, and the Azores or Madeira where there is so little

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  11. I agree with all comments but am concerned that the
    compulsory wearing of face masks posted by Jayne is being flouted by many. This is not good for Madeira & needs to be addressed as the Madeira Government are really trying to prevent Covid19 taking hold in the beautiful Island of Madeira & its’ beautiful people. I hope for everyone’s sake Madeira does not suffer from Portugal being added to the
    ‘No Go’ list.

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  12. The Uk could learn a lot from Madeira,everyone feels safe due to testing at the airport,very efficiently run .
    Masks appear to worn in all close contact areas and we have not seen any large group gatherings .
    It’s so nice to visit a beautiful place without the yobs from the UK.
    We are happy to be here and supporting the tourist industry but looks like quarantine on return even having had negative tests.
    The clowns running the UK are clueless but then again no surprises there ,you reap what you sow .

    Reply
    • If your test upon arrival is positive Carole, then you stay in confinement until your test shows a negative result. If you are negative upon arrival then there is no quarantine in Madeira.

      Reply

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