UK holidaymakers in Spain have been told they will have to self-isolate for two weeks when they return home.
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The UK government has revised its travel advice for Spain to warn against all non-essential travel to the Balearics and Canaries – despite calls for the islands to be exempt from quarantine rules.
The Foreign Office said the latest advice came after it considered “the impact of the requirement to self-isolate on return to the UK”.
Britons were already advised against non-essential travel to mainland Spain.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who is currently on holiday in Spain, announced he is cutting short his trip to return home and now faces a two-week quarantine on his return.
“The sooner I get back from Spain myself, the sooner I can get through quarantine,” he said in a statement.
Travel firm TUI UK has cancelled all holidays to the Spanish islands for the next few days, following the government’s change.
The company has called on the government to take a more targeted approach to coronavirus quarantine measures as it also cancelled flights to mainland Spain until 9 August.
Jet2 has announced the suspension of its flights to some holiday destinations in Spain and to Faro airport on Portugal’s Algarve.
The airline said the areas of Spain affected are Costa de Almeria, Alicante, Malaga and Murcia – and the suspension will last until mid-August.
In a statement, Jet2 said: “We urge the government to provide the industry with clarity, so that we can keep our all-important customers up-to-date and informed.”
Spain was added to the UK’s quarantine list – which already included Portugal – from midnight on Saturday with just a few hours’ warning.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the move was an “error” and “not justified” and he said the country is in talks with UK authorities to make them reconsider their decision.
The number of coronavirus cases in Spain has increased by 6,355 since Friday.
Data also shows that infection rates are currently rising in many European countries, which could all be at risk of being placed on a quarantine list.
Spain’s government has been calling for the UK to exempt travellers to the Balearic and Canary Islands from the newly announced two-week quarantine.
Tourism minister Reyes Maroto insisted it was safe for holidaymakers to visit the popular destinations.
She said: “We’ve been talking all weekend. What we’d like is for quarantines to be lifted on the islands as early as possible and we hope it will be today rather than tomorrow.”
Daniel Trigg, chairman of the Lanzarote Business and Residents’ Association said he was caught off-guard by the UK government’s decision to apply a blanket rule across all of Spain and its islands, adding that Lanzarote currently has just one case of coronavirus.
He said: “It came out of nowhere. We do not understand how the Canary Islands can be included.
“We’ve complied with everything and just do not understand why we’re all put in the same category as mainland Spain.”
Mr Trigg urged the British government to reconsider the decision due to Lanzarote’s reliance on tourism for income and its precarious outlook for jobs.
He added: “Thousands of people will be put out of work and will never recover. Some businesses will just not last this.
“You’re [the UK government] going to wipe out a lot of business and a lot of hard working families, including a lot of self-employed people in the tourism sector.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said no international travel is “risk-free”, adding: “Decisions on border measures and travel advice can be changed rapidly if necessary to stop the spread of the disease.”
Spain’s tourism association – known as CEHAT – has offered to pay for tourists to take coronavirus tests and called the quarantine decision “illogical” and “unfair”.
But a UK minister showed no signs of budging, saying “within individual countries there is no way for us to control intra-country transport” so it is “very difficult” to have regional exemptions.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News that the government received data on Friday which showed a “big jump” in COVID-19 cases across Spain.
He said ministers looked at the data on Saturday afternoon and acted as quickly as they could – and the Department for Transport stands ready to do the same again.
Speaking to Sky News, health minister Helen Whately urged people to work from home when they return from Spain and asked employers to “be supportive”.
France said at the weekend that its R-rate was up to 1.3 – with countries aiming for 1 or less in order to contain the virus. Daily new infections in France on Friday rose to 1,130.
Spain’s ministry of foreign affairs insisted the situation in the country was “under control”, with outbreaks “localised, isolated and controlled”.
But the number of cases there has tripled in two weeks, with more than 900 new infections reported on Friday.
Emily Harrison, from Essex, who was flying to London, said: “It’s not given very much time to prepare so everyone is now panicking, and I also think it ruins plans for everybody, so I don’t really agree with that because it has come too soon. We haven’t had enough preparation.”
Bemusement at the Spanish seaside at UK's quarantine decision
Close to 1.8 million holidays were likely to have been thrown into chaos by the quarantine move, according to travel company The PC Agency.
Tourist Pippa Stickler, who was due to fly home to the UK, said she and her partner are unable to get 14 days off work upon their return.
She said: “My partner is in a hands-on job with only four days’ holiday remaining, so it has to be unpaid, and I can’t work from home so cannot be off.”
Mr Raab said no employee should be penalised for isolating, telling Sky News: “If someone is following the law in relation to quarantine and self-isolating the way they should, they can’t have penalties taken against them.”
The decision to impose a quarantine for travellers returning from Spain has been taken by all the devolved administrations in charge of health policy in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
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According to The Times, trips to France, Italy and Greece are being cancelled in “large numbers” following the ruling by ministers on Spain, a development likely to heap further pressure on an already under-strain travel sector.
British Airways and easyJet both expressed “disappointment” with the Spain quarantine decision, but said flights would not be immediately affected.
BA added that customers who no longer wished to travel to Spain could contact them to claim a voucher for future travel, while easyJet has said customers can transfer their flights without a change fee or get a voucher for the value of their booking.