Despite the fact that Britain continues to record a higher number of coronavirus cases and deaths than Spain, fierce criticism of the British government’s handling of the crisis has led the Boris Johnson administration to remove Spain from a list of countries exempt from quarantine measures in response to the rising number of coronavirus cases recorded in Catalonia, Aragón and Murcia.
The decision is simply another nail in the coffin of the Spanish tourism industry and now means that from midnight on July 25, all travellers returning to the UK from Spain will have to quarantine for 14 days. Failure to do so could result in a fine of up to £1,000.
The devolved administrations all took the same decision, so travellers arriving from Spain into all parts of the UK will need to self-isolate.
In Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted, “Having reviewed the latest data earlier today, the Scottish government is also re-imposing 14-day quarantine for travellers returning from Spain. This reinforces the point that these matters are subject to change at short notice and so my advice is to be cautious about non-essential foreign travel.”
On the Costa Blanca the move was met with disbelief with the president of the Hoteliers Association, Hosbec, Toni Mayor, describing the news as a ‘blow’, since “we had good feelings for the next few weeks, with reservations that were growing and although they were far from what would be normal at this time of year, we expected that they were normalizing for the month of September and October”.
Many hotels and tourist related businesses across the region were scheduled to re-open in the coming days, in anticipation of anticipated growth in the number of British tourists arriving on the Costa Blanca, but they will now have to rethink their decisions in light of the British announcement.
A British government spokesperson said:
“The Joint Biosecurity Centre, together with Public Health England, have updated their coronavirus assessments of Spain based on the latest data. As a result, Spain has been removed from the lists of countries from which passengers arriving in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are exempted from the need to self-isolate.”
“Protecting public health is our absolute priority and we have taken this decision to limit any potential spread to the UK.”
The FCO is advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain – this does not cover the Canary Islands or the Balearic Islands because travel advice is based on the risk to the individual traveller and COVID-19 infection rates are lower there than mainland Spain.
But people will still need to self-isolate when returning from anywhere in Spain including the Canary and Balearic Islands, because self-isolation arrangements are put in place on the basis of risk to the UK as a whole.
However, in a move to protect it’s own tourist industry the Government of the Balearic Islands has said that it “is working to establish the basis for a safe air corridor with the United Kingdom,” pointing out that the Balearic Islands have a cumulative incidence in the last 14 days of 8 diagnosed cases of coronavirus per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 14.1 in the United Kingdom or a Spanish average of 37.9.
The Health authorities in Spain have warned that a second wave of coronavirus cases could be imminent as the government of Catalonia has closed all nightclubs and late-night bars in the region for the next two weeks and virtually all communities have introduced the mandatory wearing of face masks.
Cases of the virus have been on the rise again in recent weeks in Spain, prompting concern in several European countries with France currently threatening to close its border with Catalonia.
On Friday Norway said it will re-impose a 10-day quarantine requirement for people arriving from Spain from Saturday, while France advised people not to travel to the Spanish region of Catalonia.
On Sunday morning queues of home-bound Britons reacted with anger and confusion as they prepared to board a plane from Madrid. Emily Harrison, from Essex, said: ‘It’s really bad because it’s just come all of a sudden, it’s not given very much time to prepare so everyone is now panicking.
Almost 40 countries have reported record single-day increases in coronavirus infections, as the World Health Organisation warns there is no return to the ‘old normal’.
The rate of cases has also been rapidly increasing in the United States, Brazil, India, Japan and Australia, among others.
The British government announcement is available below: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/spain-removed-from-travel-corridors-exemption-list
Travel advice from the British Embassy in Spain: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/spain