Spain insists it is ‘safe for tourists’ and pushes to exclude holiday islands after surprise UK quarantine move
Labour on Monday said the Government’s travel restriction policies had “lacked grip and coherence from the outset”. (PA)
The Spanish government has insisted the country is “safe for tourists” after Britain asked all those returning from the country to self-isolate for 14 days.
Foreign minister Aránzazu González Laya sought to reassure tourists and argue for the continued exclusion of the Balearic and Canary Islands after the UK Government moved swiftly over the weekend to impose coronavirus quarantine on returning travellers.
She told reporters: "Spain is safe, it is safe for Spaniards, it is safe for tourists.”
The move, which saw holidaying Transport Secretary Grant Shapps swept up in the 14-day quarantine requirement, has thrown British tourists’ trips into disarray and came after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in some parts of Spain.
France and Germany have also seen a rise in new cases, with The Telegraph reporting that both destinations could be added to the UK’s quarantine list.
Only Spain’s Balearic and Canary Islands are spared from the current Foreign Office travel advice requiring people returning to go into self-isolation.
Ms González Laya said: “At the moment our dialogue efforts are focused on excluding from the quarantine measures of the Balearic and Canary Islands.
“This is for two reasons – number one these are islands, very safe territories; number two, their epidemiological data is extremely positive and well below the epidemiological data in the UK.”
The government of the Balearic Islands meanwhile said it had been working on establishing a “safe air corridor with the UK” following the move to add Spain to the British quarantine list.
It said in a statement: “The British government’s decision has caused great concern in the Balearic Islands’ government, given that it will cause serious problems to tourist activity in our islands.
“One of the main arguments justifying the creation of a safe air corridor between the islands and the UK is the health situation here.”
British Airways is continuing to operate flights to Spain, but it warned that the Government’s move had thrown “thousands of Britons' travel plans into chaos".
Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it had been “absolutely necessary” to impose the measures with with only hours notice.
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 on Monday said the Government’s travel restriction policies had “lacked grip and coherence from the outset”.
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds claimed that ministers had “created a sense of panic and loss of control”, and said: “The Government should have proper contingency plans to support people coming home where there is no guarantee their employers will allow them 14 days of work flexibility.
“And it is high time that a sector-specific deal for aviation is introduced as quarantine measures continue to affect the travel industry."
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI business lobby group, said that while the Government’s decision was the right one, it had caused a “real shock” to the tourism industry.
“This will have a real chilling impact, so I think there are lessons to be learned,” she told the BBC’s Westminster Hour.