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British tourists unlikely to be allowed into Spain 'until end of summer'
22 January 2021, 14:25 | Updated: 22 January 2021, 14:26
Brits could be unable to holiday in Spain until the "end of summer" following reports the Spanish Prime Minister will be keeping the borders shut to international tourists until the majority of Spain is vaccinated.
Speaking at a meeting of the World Tourism Organisation, Pedro Sanchez reportedly said he did not expect holidaymakers to visit Spain until a majority of the population is vaccinated.
He said the country would be "progressively" preparing to welcome tourists, but not until 70 per cent of Spain's population had been vaccinated.
Mr Sanchez stated that this is unlikely to be until end of this summer, according to local media.
"Only mass vaccination will open the way to the normality we want," Mr Sanchez told the 113th meeting of the Executive Council held in Madrid on Wednesday.
The speech comes as a major blow to any Brits who were looking to escape the UK and holiday in Spain this summer.
Millions of Brits usually travel to Spain every year over the summer - in 2016, a record 9.6 million people arrived from the UK in July alone.
The news is also a disappointment for the tourism sector, which closed its worst year since the 1970s in 2020 with revenues falling by more than 75 per cent.
All non-essential travel to Spain from the UK was banned last year, originally until January 9, before this was extended to February 2 at the earliest.
The country’s tourism sector has suffered due to the pandemic with a reported loss of €106bn, with favourite British destinations including the Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca left empty of tourists.
Under the current rules, Spanish residents are still able to return from the UK but they must present evidence of a negative test result for coronavirus on arrival.
This is also now a requirement for anyone trying to enter the UK.
Spain is not the only popular holiday destination closing its doors to British tourists, as Portugal has said it will be suspending all flights to and from Britain from Saturday onwards.
Only repatriation flights will be allowed between the two countries, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said.
It comes after Spain reported its highest daily number of coronavirus infections yet on Thursday, recording 44,357 cases.
A further 404 deaths were also reported, taking the country's total to 55,041 deaths and 2.5 million cases.
Spanish government ministers are said to be pushing for the introduction of a "vaccine certificate" in a bid to reopen the borders and kickstart the economy.
Anyone who receives the vaccine could be given a pass that would allow them to travel, according to Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez.
Last summer, holidays briefly opened up due to the travel corridor scheme which allowed people to leave the UK without the need to quarantine on their return.
Spain was listed as one of the travel corridors until July 26 when its abrupt removal from the scheme caused thousands of holiday-makers to abandon their plans and make a dash home before the rules came into force.
On Friday, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan called for people to quarantine for two weeks in hotels when they arrive in the country.
Mr Khan told LBC the UK needs tighter border controls to prevent dangerous coronavirus variants from entering the country.
Discussing the issue on Speak to Sadiq, he said: “We have had until now, even now, people arriving in our country, getting off a plane, using Tubes to go to home or to a hotel in the centre of London, that doesn’t make any sense to me.”
“We should have much tighter controls at our borders... that includes not just tests before you arrive that are negative, tests when you arrive that are negative and staying in a hotel at the airport for at least a couple weeks until we know that you are ok to go about your business,” he said.
He added: “We shouldn't be embarrassed of saying... those countries where there is a particularly dangerous strain of the virus, we shouldn’t be allowing people from those countries to come to our country in this period.”
Mr Khan said the UK should be following the examples of Germany, Hong Kong and New Zealand in having “much tighter restrictions and controls over our borders".
The Government “hasn’t got a grip at all” of border control “since day one”, he said.
He continued: “One of things the Government says is they don’t want to stop international business", adding “they don't understand that businesses, the economy and health are inextricably linked”.
“Unless we get a grip on the virus, we’re never going to have a recovery for our economy either,” he said.
It comes after a recording emerged earlier this week of Home Secretary Priti Patel admitting the Government "should... have closed our borders earlier" and said she had pushed for that last March.
Boris Johnson has since defended his approach, insisting the UK now has tough restrictions.
Education Secretary Gaving Williamson told LBC the Prime Minister “listened to the best advice that was available” when not introducing tougher border restrictions early in the pandemic.
On the possibility of having quarantine hotels for people arriving in the UK, Mr Williamson said: “That isn’t something that the Government is proposing at the moment but we’ve got a set of travel restrictions in order to be able to protect the population in the UK, if the medical and scientific advice is to more of course we would always look at doing more.”