Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has doubled down on the UK’s sudden decision to reimpose strict quarantine rules at short notice on travellers returning from Spain, calling the measures “absolutely necessary”.
But Spain said it was in conversation with the UK about exempting the Canary and Balearic islands, which includes Ibiza and Mallorca, from the requirement to self-isolate for two weeks.
Foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya argued Spain had coronavirus outbreaks “perfectly controlled” after the European country recorded more than 900 fresh daily Covid-19 cases for two days running.
Ministers announced on Saturday that holidaymakers who had not returned from Spain and its islands by midnight would be forced to quarantine for 14 days after Covid-19 second wave fears saw the popular holiday destination struck off the UK’s safe list.
The Foreign Office guidance advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain does not include the islands but ministers opted to apply blanket quarantine arrangements across the Spanish territories.
Ms Gonzalez Laya told reporters: “Spain is a safe country for tourists and Spaniards.
“Like in any other European country we are seeing outbreaks – the outbreaks in Spain are perfectly controlled.”
She added: “At the moment our dialogue efforts are focused on excluding from the quarantine measures the Balearic and the Canary Islands.
“We do hope that this dialogue we have started with the UK authorities, together with the governments of the Balearic and Canary Islands, will bear fruit shortly.”
It comes after Cabinet minister Mr Raab said the Government would not apologise for failing to give notice on its Spain decision, which was announced only hours before the changes came into force.
The quick turnaround even caught out Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who is currently in Spain for his summer break and will join thousands of others in being forced to self-isolate for a fortnight on his return to Britain.
Paul Scully, minister for London, will also have to quarantine after declaring on social media that he was on holiday in Playa Dorada, Lanzarote.
Mr Raab told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “The data we got was on the Friday, it showed a big jump right across mainland Spain.
“That was then assessed yesterday afternoon and we took the decision as swiftly as we could and we can’t make apologies for doing so.”
Mr Raab added: “We’ve always said, as we come through the lockdown, we would need to take targeted measures.
“If we can’t do that, the risk is the virus gets back hold in the UK, the damage to the economy of a second lockdown and I think a blow to public confidence.
“So, yes, these measures are decisive and swift and, as a result of that, inconvenient for those going through them … but they are absolutely necessary.”
The First Secretary of State conceded there was an “element of personal responsibility” involved when telling those arriving from Spain to self-isolate but stressed there were “penalties for non-compliance”.
Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth criticised the Government’s handling of the decision, labelling it “frankly shambolic”, and called for financial support for those now forced to shut themselves away after their arrival home.
One frustrated traveller due to come back to Britain from Spain confirmed he had booked a Covid-19 test in a bid to avoid missing out on work.
But NHS test and trace boss Baroness Dido Harding said a negative result would not exempt those returning from the requirement to quarantine.
Self-employed roofer Malcolm Bembridge told the PA news agency he had ordered a coronavirus test so it would be at his home when he arrives back to Birmingham from Almeria on Sunday.
He said: “If I do the test and it comes back negative, then does that mean I can resume work or do I need to self-isolate?”
But Baroness Harding, speaking to Times Radio, said: “Unfortunately, although we’d love it to be true that if you have a test today, we can be confident in saying you are not infectious and about to come down with disease, that’s not the way the virus works.
“A test today is only as good as saying you haven’t got the disease today.
“The incubation period can be quite a long time, which is why if you’ve been in a very high-risk environment – and right now the judgment of our scientists and clinicians is that Spain is a high-risk environment – we need you to isolate for 14 days because you might test negative today and test positive tomorrow or the next day, right up to the end of that 14-day period.”