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Brits rush to cancel foreign holidays amid quarantine concerns
27 July 2020, 06:44
Holidaymakers returning from Spain were left outraged at being told they must quarantine when they get home amid fears more European holidays could be thrown into disarray.
Brits have scrambled to cancel foreign holidays amid warnings that the decision to quarantine arrivals from Spain would cause the collapse of overseas travel this summer.
Senior ministers in France and Germany have both warned of possible new lockdowns as they fear second waves of Covid-19.
Travel industry leaders have warned reimposing quarantine measures on Spain could “kill off” foreign holidays this summer due to the risk of unplanned self-isolation with only weeks to go before schools return in just over a month.
The British Government has defended the decision to add Spain to the list of destinations requiring quarantine after a spike in cases in the country.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News that the Government "can't make apologies" for the decision made on Saturday - announced less than five hours before coming into force - that arrivals from Spain and its islands would have to self-isolate for 14 days.
Mr Raab also refused to rule out rescinding further so-called travel corridors.
"As we've found with Spain, we can't give a guarantee," he said, before adding that there was "an element of uncertainty this summer if people go abroad".
The Telegraph newspaper reported that officials in both France and Germany have warned of possible new lockdowns as parts of Europe braced for a second wave of Covid-19 infections.
French health authorities said at the weekend that the country's R-rate was up to 1.3 and that daily new infections on Friday had risen to 1,130 - indicators resembling those seen in May, when France was coming out of its strict two-month lockdown.
The decision to reimpose restrictions on Spain left holidaymakers frustrated, with some saying they would not have travelled if they knew they would have to spend a fortnight self-isolating afterwards.
Close to 1.8 million holidays were likely to have been thrown into chaos by the move, according to travel company The PC Agency, which analysed the number of seats booked on flights leaving the UK for Spain between July 26 and August 31.
According to The Times, trips to France, Italy and Greece were being cancelled in "large numbers" following the ruling by ministers on Spain, a development likely to heap further pressure on an already under-strain travel sector.
Tour operator Tui said that, due to the change in the Government's travel advice, it was cancelling all holidays to mainland Spain up to and including August 9.
Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth criticised the Government's handling of the affair, labelling it "frankly shambolic", and called for financial support for those now forced to shut themselves away after their arrival home.
Gemma Antrobus, head of the travel agents’ arm of the Association of Independent Tour Operators, said: “It feels like the rug has been pulled from under our feet. The fact such a drastic change can happen to Spain, the UK’s most popular destination, will really worry people that it could happen to any destination. It’s a huge blow and means people will be put off committing to going away. Others will be worried about going in case the rules change.”
Jill Witte, 53, arriving at Gatwick Airport on Sunday with her two daughters and husband, said: "We were shocked, it didn't look like that was coming, otherwise we wouldn't have gone."
It was not just the public who were caught out by the sudden announcement.
The quick turnaround on the decision meant Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who is currently in Spain for his summer break, will join thousands of others in being forced to isolate for two weeks on his return to Britain.
Paul Scully, minister for London, will also have to quarantine after declaring on social media that he was on holiday in Playa Dorada, Lanzarote.
Spanish ministers revealed they were in talks with the UK about exempting the Canary and Balearic islands, which include Ibiza and Majorca, from the requirement to self-isolate for two weeks due to lower infection rates in those regions.
The Foreign Office guidance advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain does not include the islands but ministers opted to apply blanket quarantine arrangements across the Spanish territories.
Foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya argued Spain had coronavirus outbreaks "perfectly controlled" after the European country recorded more than 900 fresh daily Covid-19 cases for two days running before Saturday's travel corridor suspension.
Ms Gonzalez Laya told reporters: "Spain is a safe country for tourists and Spaniards.
"Like in any other European country we are seeing outbreaks - the outbreaks in Spain are perfectly controlled."
Meanwhile, beauty salons and tattoo parlours are among the businesses which can reopen in Wales from Monday, but people are warned about the risks of offering eyebrow treatments and facials due to prolonged face-to-face contact.