Dominic Raab says government will 'not apologise' for Spain quarantine decision

26 July 2020, 11:48

By Maddie Goodfellow

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the Government would "not apologise" for reimposing strict quarantine rules at short notice on travellers returning from Spain.

Ministers announced on Saturday that holidaymakers who had not returned from Spain and its islands by midnight would be forced to quarantine for 14 days after Covid-19 second wave fears saw the European country struck off the UK's safe list.

The sudden timing of the announcement was criticised by the travel sector and consumer rights groups but Mr Raab said the Government had been right to take "swift" action.

The decision was made after Spain recorded more than 900 fresh daily Covid-19 cases for two days running.

Mr Raab told Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: "The data we got was on the Friday, it showed a big jump right across mainland Spain, that was then assessed yesterday afternoon and we took the decision as swiftly as we could.

"And we can't make apologies for doing so."

He continued: "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 reinfection into the UK, potentially a second wave here and then another lockdown.

"So, yes, I understand it is disruptive for those going through this who are in Spain or have been considering going but we must though be able to take swift, decisive action to protect the UK because we've made such progress in getting the virus down and prevent the virus retaking hold in the UK."

The Cabinet minister conceded there was an "element of personal responsibility" involved when telling those returning from Spain to self-isolate but stressed there were "penalties for non-compliance".

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.

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."

She added: "At the moment our dialogue efforts are focused on excluding from the quarantine measures the Balearic and the Canary Islands.

"We do hope that this dialogue we have started with the UK authorities, together with the governments of the Balearic and Canary Islands, will bear fruit shortly."

However, Labour have criticised the Government's handling of the decision, labelling it "frankly shambolic".

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the Government's sudden decision to take Spain off the safe list had left holidaymakers "confused and distressed".

The Labour MP told Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: "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.

"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 is going to happen.

"We need clarity from government now as to whether those who are asked to quarantine, whether they'll get financial support if their employers refuse it them and we need clarity for those holidaymakers who are currently in Spain who have properly saved up all year for their family holiday who are confused and distressed.

"The way in which this decision has been communicated is obviously causing anxiety."

He also said "you couldn't make it up" after it was confirmed Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is currently in Spain and will have to self-isolate on his return to Britain.

Mr Ashworth said: "You couldn't make it up that Grant Shapps is over there on holiday in Spain when he is the Transport Secretary - I think that tells you everything about the sort of Government approach to this."