Quarantine measures for people travelling from Spain may be applied to other countries
Holidaymakers have been warned the government could impose “handbrake restrictions” on more countries beyond Spain in order to stop the spread of coronavirus – with travellers unlikely to be given much warning if further quarantine measures need to be enforced.
The restrictions on travellers returning from Spain after the measures were announced overnight threw summer holiday plans into disarray for British tourists, and will raise fears among those travelling to other European countries that they could face a similar turnaround at a moment’s notice.
Government sources said it was prepared to act quickly to impose the new rules, if needed, on other nations – but said there were no plans for “air bridges” to be revoked with other European countries.
The snap decision to change advice for travellers has been criticised by Labour, who said the short notice would give tourists “a sense of panic and loss of control”. The party has called for the government to aid employees who must now tell their employers that they need to isolate, warning people could face financial hardship.
Among those currently in Spain are at least two government ministers, including the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, whose department imposed the new restrictions in a blow to its “air bridges” scheme which had advised tourists they could travel safely to a number of European countries.
Paul Scully, minister for London and small business, posted a picture on Instagram of himself on holiday in Playa Dorada, Lanzarote, with the caption: “Best turn to gin. I’ll still be able to work. Just no shopping or running I guess quarantine.”
Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, said the government had to take “swift, decisive action” when the data from Spain showed a surge in infections right across the country.
“Otherwise, we risk reinfection into the UK, potentially a second wave here and then another lockdown,” he said. “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.”
Raab said the government could not risk giving “vague advice” to holidaymakers. “There is a cutoff with changes in rules and advice we give, so I appreciate that that’s difficult and it can be disruptive.
“But it would be far worse to either muddy the waters or to hold back and delay from taking the measures when we need to take them. The reason this was taken at reasonably short notice was the spike in Spain that we’ve responded to … so it was the real-time response.”