The foreign secretary admitted the government could not give a “guarantee” other countries or territories would be removed the safe flight list if they experienced a spike in coronavirus transmission rates.
It comes after ministers made an unexpected decision to reimpose quarantine measures on those arriving in the UK from Spain, including the Canary Islands and Balearics, due to fears of a considerable increase of Covid-19 infections in the country.
The Department for Transport (DfT) announced close to 8pm on Saturday that all those returning from Spain after midnight on the same day would have to self-isolate for a 14-day period – throwing travellers' plans into chaos. Labour also criticised the move as "shambolic".
Questioned on why the decision was made by ministers with such short notice, Mr Raab told Sky New’s Sophy Ridge programme that data compiled by the government on Friday showed a “big jump” in coronavirus infections across mainland Spain.
“That was then assessed yesterday afternoon and we took the decision as swiftly as we could,” he said. “We can’t make apologies for doing so. We must be able to take swift, decisive action, particularly in relation to localised, or internationally in relation to Spain or a particular country, where we see we must take action.
"Otherwise, we risk re-infection into the UK, potentially a second wave here and then another lockdown.”
Pressed on whether it was likely other countries that appear on the government’s safe list of destinations for travellers to removed, the foreign secretary replied: “As we’ve found with Spain, we can’t give a guarantee.
“All we can say is that we’ve got this Joint Biosecurity Centre. As you can see we monitor the risk in real time, we take monitor the risk in real time, we take decisive, swift action. And so there is an element of uncertainty this summer as people go abroad.”
It also emerged Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, was on holiday in the European country when the decision was taken by ministers to advise against all but essential travel – a move that means the cabinet minister will have to self-isolate for 14-days when he returns to the UK.
“I think it shows you the risk for everyone,” Mr Raab said. “I spoke to Grant Shapps yesterday afternoon and it shows you that we’ve got swift measures that we can put in place. Like anyone, I think he emphasised we many other people going through that, but he recognised of course we as the decision makers recognise we have to take these measures to protect the country.”
Speaking earlier, Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, criticised the government’s sudden decision to remove Spain from the safe list that had left British tourists “confused and distressed”.
“I understand why they’ve made the decision but, of course, the way in which this decision has been made in the last 24 hours is frankly shambolic”.
He added: “There are holidaymakers in Spain at the moment confused and distressed, there are people about to go on holiday to Spain and the islands like Tenerife who are confused, and they don’t know whether their employers will allow them to take two weeks’ quarantine – the government is just saying, ‘we hope that employers co-operate.
“Well, to be frank, I hope I win the lottery on Saturday but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.”
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