Saturday 25 July 2020

Brits are told NOT to travel to Spain unless it's essential and new 14-day quarantine rule for returning holidaymakers

Bathers enjoy the beach in Cadiz, south Spain, on July 14

UK holidaymakers have been warned not to travel to mainland Spain by the Foreign Office after the Government imposed a bombshell two-week quarantine on all return passengers from the Mediterranean country.

The Foreign Office issued a statement this evening explaining that all travel unless essential to Spain must be stopped because the country has seen a spike in coronavirus cases.

This comes after holidaymakers in Spain were tonight hit with a nightmare of two-weeks in quarantine after the British government imposed a snap decision to axe it from the safe travel list.

Tourists faced agony over whether to try to get back before the expected midnight deadline, while those who have booked to go away in the future were forced to consider whether to cancel. 

Tourists in Spain are facing a race against time to fly back home to avoid the mandatory two-week quarantine that will come into effect at midnight tonight

The decision - sparked by a surge of cases in the country -  will affect thousands who had gone on holiday to the Mediterranean hotspot after being told it would be safe.

Spain’s outbreak bottomed out at fewer than 250 new cases a day in June, but the Spanish government is now registering around 1,000 new cases daily. 

The Department for Transport confirmed that travellers returning to any of the UK nations from Spain after midnight tonight will have to self-isolate for two weeks as the country has been removed from the travel corridors exemption list.

Now, a Government spokesperson has said that Spain has been removed from the travel corridors exemption list.

In a statement the Foreign Office 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.

'We've always been clear that we would act immediately to remove a country where necessary. Both our list of quarantine exemptions and the FCO travel advice are being updated to reflect these latest risk assessments.'

They added that British people already in Spain should follow local health rules and return home as normal, then self-isolate on their return.

A Foreign Office statement also confirmed that: 'PHE are continuing to monitor the situation in the Balearic and Canary Islands closely. Travellers there should continue to check this advice regularly.'

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon was the first to confirm the news that Scots returning from Spain will have to quarantine for 14 days. 

The dramatic change in rules leaves the airbridge scheme - designed to stop quarantines between selected countries - in tatters.

And the drive to promote confidence in the struggling travel industry will also be badly hit by the developments. 

With the news about the two-week quarantine having seemingly come out of the blue, many Britons have been left debating whether to rush home and end their holidays early to avoid the quarantine. 

Neil Hunter, 45, from Sittingbourne in Kent, had booked a 10-day break to Lanzarote, leaving on Tuesday. The trip had been booked since last December.

He told the PA news agency: 'We were going as a family, my wife Amanda, and teenage daughter Bethany but to be honest, since this announcement, I'm unsure what's going to happen as I work as a train driver, and I don't think my employer will accept me having to isolate due to going on holiday.

'I am insured, but unsure whether they'd accept that as a reason for not going, especially if Hays Travel don't cancel for me. There's no way I could afford to cancel myself.'

He said he understood why the decision had been taken, but that it 'is a lot of money and disappointing all the same'.

Chloe Harris, 23 from Kent, booked a last-minute trip to Lanzarote and arrived on the Spanish island this morning.

She told the PA news agency: 'At the moment we are just waiting to hear whether the quarantine will affect the Spanish islands or if it is just going to be the mainland.

'When I heard the news I was quite shocked because I thought they would have given us some warning. Even just some warning that this was something they were going to consider.

'We only booked the trip on Wednesday and we are only here for a few days. We had done our research and we knew that the island has only had a small number of Covid cases.

'I think a lot of people are going to rush to the airport, but because we are only here for four days, and we only arrived this morning, it doesn't seem worth it. We are just going to wait and hear if the island is included in the quarantine.

'I would probably be fine to continue working from home and quarantine from home, although I would have to stop going into the office. However, my friend who I travelled with is due to start a new job on August 3 and so that's going to be difficult to explain to her employer.'

Sophie Ingham, 23, flew to Tenerife with her boyfriend Nick Baldwin a week ago and she says she has been left confused by the lack of guidance over the new quarantine.

Speaking to MailOnline she said: 'We were shocked. 

'I think it's ridiculous, we've only been here a week and we've followed all the rules. We have worn masks when we needed to and not been close to anyone other than each other.

'We don't even know if it definitely includes us as it is just mainland Spain that is suffering a second spike, so does this include the islands?

'It's all unclear and upsetting as we really cannot quarantine.'

She and her boyfriend are now anxiously waiting at the airport trying to return home before the quarantine is imposed but are unclear whether the midnight deadline affects aircraft that were already out of Spain before the cut off.

'We fly at 22:10 and land at 02:50 so we have no idea if the quarantine will affect us as the news just says from Sunday Morning.'

John Blackmore, from Hampshire, was due to fly out to his family in Spain with his wife and two young children. But the new rules mean he has had to cancel, for fears his wife's employer would not be able to accommodate her taking an extra two weeks off to quarantine on their return.

He said it was unlikely they would get a refund for the flight, as it has not been cancelled.

'I'm devastated,' he told the BBC. 'I have family in Spain who haven't seen their only grandkids since Christmas.' 

Divina EncarnaciĆ³n tweeted: 'I just landed in Spain, how and when are we supposed to get back? The UK government is a joke, thanks for ruining my holidays.'

MailOnline's Rebecca Davison is in Minorca and speaking about the new quarantine rule she said: 'We were hoping that, not being on the mainland because it’s so quiet and deserted here that we would be exempt, that it would only be the mainland bit of Spain the rule would apply to. 

'So we were a little bit surprised to hear that it was here as well because everyone is wearing a mask in the street and there aren’t that many people around.

'It just seems like it would be safer here than back home.'

Which? travel editor Rory Boland spoke for many when he questioned why the change had not been carried out earlier.

He said: 'Why on earth was this decision not taken 48hrs ago, when it was clear there was a problem with Spain, and before tens of thousands of UK holidaymakers flew out on Friday as the summer hols started?'

Paul Charles, CEO of the travel consultancy The PC Agency, also took to Twitter to question the move and he said: 'Surprised that and didn't alter #Spain travel advice yesterday when #France #Germany and #Norway did. Interesting to see a blanket #Spain advisory instead of a regional one just for #Catalonia. Indicates depth of #UKGovt concern on #Spain.'

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