Spain’s prime minister has criticised Britain’s decision to close the so-called “air bridge”, arguing that holidaymakers from the UK would be safer from coronavirus in Ibiza than at home.
In an unexpected move over the weekend, the UK’s Department for Transport announced British tourists would face a mandatory 14-day isolation upon their return from Spain.
Junior transport minister Charlotte Vere said on Tuesday that the UK is looking at setting quarantine rules for different regions within countries overseas, but will continue to make decisions on a country-wide basis for now.
“For the time being we are taking the approach by country for border measures, but it is the case that it could be that we could put them in place for regions in the future,” she told the House of Lords. “We are not there yet but we are certainly looking at it.”
Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez argued on Monday, however, that the infection rate in many areas of his country is far lower than in the UK.
Sanchez told Spanish TV: “The error, in my judgment, and hence the lack of alignment of the United Kingdom’s response, is based on considering the cumulative incidence of [the virus in] the entire country.
“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.”
Sanchez said that the Balearics and Canary Islands, as well as the regions of Valencia and Andalusia, had a lower infection rate than Britain.
“It would be safer to be in those destinations than in the United Kingdom,” he added.
The overall rate of infection in Spain is 35.1 cases per 100,000 people, while the UK is at 14.7, according to the latest figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Data collected up to 19 July suggests that the Balearic and Canary Islands do, in fact, have much lower rates than the Spanish mainland.
The British government is reportedly to be in talks to exempt tourists returning from the Spanish islands from the mandatory quarantine because of the lower levels of risk.
The Foreign Office currently advises against "all but essential travel" to countries without air bridge agreements in place.
Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that there were signs of a "second wave" of coronavirus in Europe, as he defended changing travel advice on Spain.
"What we have to do is take swift and decisive action where we think that the risks are starting to bubble up again," he said on a visit to Nottingham on Tuesday.
"Let's be absolutely clear about what's happening in Europe: Amongst some of our European friends, I'm afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic."
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