The prime minister says “the risks are starting to bubble up again” after travel advice on Spain was changed over COVID-19 cases.
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Boris Johnson has warned the signs of a “second wave” of coronavirus are surfacing in Europe, as he defended changing travel advice on Spain.
The prime minister backed the decision taken over the weekend to tell any travellers returning from Spain to the UK to quarantine for 14 days over fears COVID-19 levels there are growing.
“What we have to do is take swift and decisive action where we think that the risks are starting to bubble up again,” he said on a visit to Nottingham on Tuesday.
“Let’s be absolutely clear about what’s happening in Europe: Amongst some of our European friends, I’m afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic.”
The UK government, which has authority over health powers in England, and devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland changed position on Spain given fears of rising coronavirus case numbers.
Ministers have also updated travel advice to urge people not to visit both mainland Spain and the Balearic and Canary islands.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the move was an “error” and “not justified”, adding the country is in talks with British authorities to urge them to reconsider.
He added: “In most of Spain, the incidence is very much inferior to even the numbers registered in the UK.”
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Madrid is also pushing for countries to follow the example of Germany and issue regional rather than nationwide warnings, given COVID-19 rates are relatively low in some parts of the country.
Spain’s latest two-week infection rate is now 39.4 per 100,000 people – a rise of 260% compared to the previous fortnight – but cases are concentrated in Aragon, Catalonia and Navarre.
In his first public comments since the diplomatic row blew up, Mr Johnson did not deny a report overnight in the Daily Telegraph that the amount of time anyone could be forced to self-quarantine may be cut from 14 to 10 days.
“We are always looking at ways in which we can mitigate the impact of the quarantine, try to help people, try to make sure that the science is working to help travellers and holidaymakers,” he said.
“At the moment you have got to stick with the guidance that we are giving, we have given the guidance now about Spain and about some other places around the world.
“I’m afraid if we do see signs of a second wave in other countries it is really our job, our duty, to act swiftly and decisively to stop … travellers coming back from those places seeding the disease here in the UK.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told anyone planning to take a holiday: “We cannot assume the rules or regulations… will stay the same while you are there or be the same when you come to travel home.”
Labour has accused the UK government of using a “very blunt tool” and urged it to take a “more localised approach” to travel advice.