Spain quarantine: Travel industry furious at UK government’s decision

‘More confusion, no notice. Simply frustrating and unmanageable,’ says Julia Lo Bue Said, chief executive of Advantage

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Sunday 26 July 2020 18:16
Comments
Travellers returning to the UK from Spain on the last-minute quarantine rules

As hundreds of thousands of British holidaymakers in Spain prepare for two weeks of self-isolation on their return home, the travel industry is responding with fury to what is seen as another severe blow to its prospects.

On Saturday evening, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that people returning to the UK from Spain would from midnight need to self-isolate for two weeks,.

A 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.”

At the same time as the quarantine requirement was imposed for travellers from anywhere in Spain, the Foreign Office (FCO) warned against non-essential travel to the mainland.

The FCO said: “This advice is based on evidence of increases in cases of Covid-19 in several regions, but particularly in Aragon, Navarra and Catalonia – which include the cities of Zaragoza, Pamplona and Barcelona.”

But officials said the Spanish holiday islands were low risk.

Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airports Group (MAG), criticised the decision to force holidaymakers from the Balearics and Canaries to quarantine.

“The government is right to respond when infection rates spike in particular regions, as they are in Catalonia,” he said. “But applying these changes to the whole of Spain is unnecessary and will cause huge disruption for passengers.

“Thousands of British holidaymakers are now faced with quarantine on their return from Spain and its islands, even if they have been in areas with much lower risk levels than the UK.”

MAG, which also includes Stansted and East Midlands airports, stands to lose millions in revenue due to the cancellations and no-shows that will result from the government action.

“The government must work quickly to develop a system that is properly risk-based which enables people to continue enjoying holidays in regions with low infections rates,” said Mr Cornish.

Gloria Guevara, chief executive of the World Travel and Tourism Council, said: “Painting an entire country with the same brush does not benefit anyone.

“While we understand the concern about destinations like Spain with new Covid-19 cases, the majority of the country and its islands, which are incredibly popular holiday destinations, have less cases than the UK.”

Julia Lo Bue Said, chief executive of the Advantage travel agency consortium, tweeted: “There has to be a more efficient process for customers and our incredibly fragile industry.

“More confusion, no notice. Simply frustrating and unmanageable.”

A travel industry veteran, Paul Goldstein, added: “I find it astonishing that this hapless government gives us over two weeks’ notice on face masks, in order to ‘give us time to purchase one’, but barely four hours to quarantine UK visitors from Spain.

“As ever their travel advice paints with a ludicrously broad brush and causes misery, chaos and financial destitution.”

A government spokesperson said: “Protecting public health is our absolute priority and we have taken this decision to limit any potential spread to the UK.”

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