Mixed response to Spain’s removal from quarantine-free list
Health minister Helen Whately has said the government made the “right” choice and acted “rapidly and decisively” by removing Spain from the UK’s quarantine free list over the weekend, despite criticism from the travel industry and Labour.
The decision means that anyone arriving in the UK from Spain must adhere to the 14-day quarantine.
The change was announced on Saturday evening and came into force just six hours later.
Whately said that the government had to act to keep the UK’s own infection rate “right down”, adding that the government will keep the situation in other countries under review.
The quarantine will apply to individuals returning from the Balearic and Canary Islands, not just mainland Spain.
Andrew Flintham, Tui’s UK and Ireland managing director, has called on the government to make its quarantine policy more “nuanced” to enable travellers to go to certain regions of some countries which do not have as high an infection rate.
Tui has cancelled all mainland Spanish holidays until August 9 after the government’s announcement but is still running holidays to the Balearic and Canary Islands as planned from Monday.
Flintham told the BBC: "We'd really like a nuanced policy, so if there is a travel advice that says you can still go to the Canary Islands and the Balearics, we'd also like to have that backed up with a quarantine that obviously, isn't in place.
"If there's a travel advice that says you can't go, then we believe that clearly the quarantine should be in place.
"If we can have a lined up and regional policy, it will be much easier for us to communicate that to customers."
Whately acknowledged that infection rates were lower in the island regions of Spain, but warned that the proliferation of the virus was increasing “very rapidly in some locations, not just in mainland Spain”, meaning the government heeded scientific advice on how to “best protect the UK”.
She warned holidaymakers to be “mindful that we are still in the situation of a global pandemic”.
Meanwhile, the Labour party has raised concerns over employers not allowing enough flexibility for those who must return and quarantine with little warning, calling on the government to provide such individuals with financial support.
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said that the lack of notice and implementation of the measure caused “a sense of panic and loss of control”
He said: "The government should have proper contingency plans to support people coming home where there is no guarantee their employers will allow them 14 days of work flexibility.
"And it is high time that a sector-specific deal for aviation is introduced as quarantine measures continue to affect the travel industry."
There are worries that the 1.8 million Brits planning to fly to the UK from Spain prior to the end of August could scrap their holiday plans and cause further hardship for the travel industry.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has defended the government’s decision, saying that it “can’t make apologies” despite the disruption.
Only a select few individuals travelling to the UK are exempt from the quarantine, including registered health or care workers and people with pre-arranged health treatments.
A small number of people travelling to the UK will be exempt from having to quarantine, such as registered health or care workers or those with pre-arranged health treatments.
Despite criticism of the move from British Airways, CBI director general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn said that the government had made the right decision.
She said on BBC Radio Four: “Anyone going abroad now will know that this can happen. It was in the small print but I'm not sure that people knew that that advice could change so quickly.
"I do think there is also a real consideration around the tourism industry itself."
Fairbairn added that the measures would have a “chilling impact” on the travel industry and urged for lessons to be learned.
The government’s move came after Spain reported 971 new infections last Thursday and a further 922 on Friday. Thursday’s increase was the largest in a 24-hour period since the country ended its lockdown. On Sunday, Spain’s foreign minister had tried to give reassurances that the outbreaks in the country were “perfectly controlled.”
Foreign Office guidance has been updated advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain. This advice does not apply to the country’s islands, but the blanket quarantine measures apply to all of Spain's territories.