Dominic Raab says Government ‘cannot make apologies’ for surprise u-turn on Spain travel rules
The Foreign Secretary said he understands the decision was "disruptive" but insisted it was "absolutely necessary" (Sky News)
Dominic Raab has said it was “absolutely necessary” to impose a 14-day quarantine on travellers returning from Spain with only hours notice.
The Foreign Secretary defended the surprise move, claiming that “swift, decisive action” was needed to “prevent the virus retaking hold in the UK”.
And he rejected concerns that those unable to work due to the freshly imposed quarantine rules risked being penalised by their employer, insisting that those self-isolating “can't have penalties taken against them”.
But Labour branded the last-minute change “shambolic” and said it had left Brits currently in Spain “confused and distressed”.
It comes after the Department for Transport removed Spain from the list of countries exempt from quarantine rules on Saturday evening, giving holidaymakers just four hours to evaluate their plans.
Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Mr Raab said: “We took the decision as swiftly as we could, and we can't make apologies for doing so.
He continued: “So yes, I understand that is disruptive for those who are going through this who are in Spain or have been considering going to Spain.
“But we must be able to take swift, decisive action to protect the UK because we've made such progress getting the virus down, and to prevent the virus from retaking hold in the UK.”
And, defending the short notice of the change in advice, he added: “We must be able to gauge the data in real-time, which we did with the data coming through on Friday, and then take decisive action.
“If we suddenly say, actually, we're not quite sure and we give vague advice it would create more uncertainty.”
“There’s a cut off with changes in rules or advice that we give, so I appreciate that that's difficult and it can be disruptive, but it would be far worse either to muddy the waters or to hold back and delay from taking the measures when we need to take.”
The Foreign Secretary also attempted to waylay concerns that employers unexpectedly forced to self-isolate may be penalised at work.
He said: “If someone is following the law, in relation to quarantine and self-isolating the way they should, they can't have penalties taken against them.
“You cannot be penalised in this country lawfully for following the rules and the law that's in place.
“And obviously we expect employers to respond flexibly and in an understanding way to those who have, let's face it, had [quarantine] forced on them because of the risk that we've seen in Spain.”
Meanwhile Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth, also speaking to Sophy Ridge, criticised how the decision was communicated to the public.
He said: “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 confused and they don't know whether their employers will allow them to take two weeks quarantine.”
“And for the Government to just say, ‘we hope that employers cooperate’. Well, you know, to be frank, I hope that I'll win the lottery on Saturday doesn't mean it's going to happen.”
He added that Brits needed “clarity” from ministers over whether those asked to quarantine would get financial support, or what repercussions there would be for employers who penalised employees who are self-isolating.
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe