Summer holidays at risk as Johnson warns of further Covid-19 quarantines

28 July 2020, 19:01

Holidays in Spain were initially okayed by the UK government but people are now being told to only travel for essential reasons
Holidays in Spain were initially okayed by the UK government but people are now being told to only travel for essential reasons. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Boris Johnson has warned British holiday-goers further Covid-19 quarantine orders could be brought in over fears of a second wave across Europe.

The government has issued a warning against all but essential travel to Spain and its resort islands after the country saw a spike in cases.

And the Prime Minister has insisted that further action could be considered by the Government.

"It's vital that when people are coming back from abroad, if they are coming back from a place where I'm afraid there is another outbreak, they must go into quarantine," he said.

"That's why we have taken the action that we have and we will continue, throughout the summer, to take such action where it is necessary."

However, a diplomatic feud is threatening to break out after Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez described the restrictions on travel to the country as an "error".

He pointed out that the upsurge in coronavirus cases is focused in two regions, Catalonia and Aragon, adding: "In most of Spain, the incidence is very much inferior to even the numbers registered in the United Kingdom."

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Summer holidays are further at risk over a second wave of coronavirus across Europe
Summer holidays are further at risk over a second wave of coronavirus across Europe. Picture: PA

Madrid had been urging the UK to exclude the Canaries and Balearics - which include popular tourist resorts on Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca - from its quarantine requirements.

But instead, official travel advice was tightened to bring the islands in line with the Spanish mainland.
Transport minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton told the House of Lords on Tuesday that it is not yet possible to exempt regions from the quarantine, but said colleagues were examining how to allow this.

"For the time being, we are taking the approach by country for border measures, but it is the case that it could be that we put them in place for regions in the future," she said.

"We are not there yet but we are certainly looking at it because it is an appropriate consideration."

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The move to reimpose the quarantine period dealt a further blow to the travel industry, which was already reeling after the lockdown.

Mr Johnson said it was up to individuals to decide whether they wanted to take the risk of travelling in the present circumstances.

"These are decisions for families, for individuals, about where they want to go," he said.

Boris Johnson has warned of further quarantines
Boris Johnson has warned of further quarantines. Picture: PA

The decision to impose quarantine restrictions was made after England's chief medical officer Chris Whitty reportedly told ministers that 10 Britons who tested positive for coronavirus after July 1 had reported visiting Spain in the 14 days before their test.

Mr Johnson said: "I'm afraid if we do see signs of a second wave in other countries, it is really our job, our duty, to act swiftly and decisively to stop ... travellers coming back from those places seeding the disease here in the UK."

Britons make up over a fifth of foreign visitors to Spain, which relies heavily on tourism, and Madrid has said the UK Government gave it no warning that the quarantine move was coming over the weekend.

Travel firm Tui UK cancelled all holidays to the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands after the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) updated travel advice.

Tui's decision runs from Tuesday July 28 up to and including Friday July 31.

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Holidays to Spain's mainland were already cancelled from Sunday July 26 up to and including Sunday August 9.

The company said: "The UK Government must work closely with the travel industry as this level of uncertainty and confusion is damaging for business and disappointing for those looking forward to a well-deserved break."

Jet2 cancelled flights and holidays to the Balearic and Canary Islands until August 9, having already suspended them to mainland Spain until August 16, and asked the Government for clarity and consistency.

"We understand that this is a fast-moving situation, however the information we are receiving is contradictory and often comes with little or no notice," the firm said.

"We want to provide customers, who work hard and save hard for their well-deserved holidays, with timely information and we need this from the Government. We would like to sincerely thank our customers for their understanding and patience."

Labour said the Government must abandon its one-size-fits-all approach and introduce sectoral support for struggling businesses to ensure that public health measures such as the change in quarantine rules for people returning from Spain do not lead to mass job losses.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: "The Government's handling of this issue has been nothing short of chaotic."