Cabinet minister Grant Shapps cuts short Spain holiday after being swept up in quarantine move
The Transport Secretary flew out to Spain on Saturday morning, just hours before quarantine was re-imposed. (PA)
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is to fly back to the UK after being swept up in the Government’s reintroduction of coronavirus quarantine measures in Spain.
The Cabinet minister headed to Spain on Saturday, just hours his department confirmed it would ask all arrivals to the UK from the country to self-isolate for fourteen days.
His government colleague Michael Gove also announced that he was ditching his own plan for a holiday in the Balearic Islands, which are covered by the quarantine measures.
Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez has insisted that the British move to end its travel corridor with Spain — parts of which have seen spikes in Covid-19 cases — is “unjust”.
But Downing Street on Monday said "no travel is risk-free during this pandemic" as it defended a decision which has thrown travel plans into disarray for some holidaymakers.
Number 10 also confirmed that Mr Shapps, who has been keeping in touch with officials during his trip to Spain, would not be exempt from the quarantine requirement.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said: "The same rules apply to ministers as they do anyone else.”
And the Transport Secretary said: "I think it's right to get back to work in the UK as soon as possible in order to help handle the situation.
"The sooner I get back from Spain myself, the sooner I can get through quarantine.
"So I'm leaving my family to travel back to the UK on Wednesday."
Mr Gove had earlier made clear that he would be cancelling his own planned trip to the Balearics.
The Cabinet Office minister said: "I know there will be other people who'll be much worse affected than me, and I do strongly sympathise with the situation in which they find themselves.
"But we all recognise that public health comes first.
"Whilst self-isolation for 14 days can be difficult, everyone will want to do the right thing."
The Telegraph reports that the Government is considering cutting the quarantine requirement for those coming to the UK from Spain to 10 days, down from 14.
A new policy said to be under development will see arrivals from high-risk countries tested eight days after they land, with those who test negative able to come out of quarantine just two days later.
Mr Sánchez has urged the UK to rethink its decision to reintroduce quarantine from last Sunday.
He told the Telecinco TV network: "We are talking with British authorities to try to get them to reconsider a measure that, in our opinion, is not well adjusted if we consider epidemiological criteria of Spain, particularly in some tourist destinations in our country."
Figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) show that Spain recorded 39.4 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last two weeks, while the UK figure stands at 14.6 per 100,000 residents.
But the Spanish PM pointed out that 64.5% of the country’s new cases have emerged in just two territories, and said the UK had made an "error" in taking the Spain-wide infection rate into account.
LABOUR 'CLARITY' DEMAND
Labour has meanwhile urged the Government to do more to protect jobs in the travel industry, which has already been hit hard by the global pandemic.
The opposition party is warning that that “at least” 17,500 redundancy notices have been issued in the sector since the start of lockdown, amid the collapse of firms including Monarch, Thomas Cook and Flybe.
Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon said: “The Government’s handling of this issue has been nothing short of chaotic. The airline industry and passengers need clarity.”
He added: ”It will take a long time to recover from the impact of the virus. The Government must focus support on the sectors that desperately need it, like aviation, aerospace and its supply chain, which supports almost a quarter of a million jobs, with strict climate conditions and ensuring the gains are shared with the public.”