Brits in Spain face travel chaos as the UK government confirms they will have to isolate for two weeks when they get home.
The UK government has announced that the change will affect all tourists almost two hours after reports began emerging the rules would change almost immediately.
Panicked Brit tourists are facing quarantines unless they return home by midnight tonight due to Spain’s growing clusters of coronavirus outbreaks, reports said earlier.
Holidaymakers currently in Spain blindsided by the move have spoken of their ‘frustration’ and ‘confusion’ as they learned of the sudden decision tonight.
One factory worker learnt the news as he was packing his suitcase for a trip to Alicante tomorrow, as Brits’ summer holiday plans resurrected after vacations were halted by months in lockdown are in tatters once again.
Brit tourists already in Spain tonight say they face problems at work now they must return to unexpected 14 days’ isolation.
The Government earlier said the quarantine rules would apply to people returning from anywhere in the country – as it emerged even Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who is holidaying in Spain, will be among the tens of thousands affected.
In an update, the Foreign Office tonight warned Brits ‘against all but essential travel’ to Spain except the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, which are exempt from the warning but still come under the quarantine-upon-return order.
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‘Incredibly disappointed’ TUI airline has slammed the short notice decision as it grounded all flights tomorrow, offering travellers planning to fly on Sunday refunds or rebookings.
British Airways and easyJet were telling customers tonight they had no plans to cancel coming days’ flights.
The UK government said it took the decision to close the air bridge with Spain after a spike in coronavirus cases in several regions including Aragon, Navarra and Catalonia.
Spanish officials said it was a safe country with localised, isolated and controlled outbreaks.
A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman adding Spain’s government: “respects decisions of the United Kingdom” and is in touch with authorities there.
The announcements tonight prompted panic and confusion among British tourists – while many at home planning holidays fretted about losing thousands of pounds in bookings.
Holidaymaker George Ramsey, 23, arrived in Ibiza on Sunday and said he had moved his flight home to Leeds from this Thursday to tomorrow to enjoy more time in the resort spot.
He told Mirror Online earlier tonight before the update on advice concerning the Balearic Islands he feared he would face a two-week quarantine when he gets home.
He said it was frustrating this was happening on his holiday following months of following strict rules under the UK lockdown.
“My plan when I get home will now be to get back in the home gym, cancel all my plans and a meeting I had with my new job that starts in 3 weeks,” Mr Ramsey said earlier.
“Very, very frustrating as there hasn’t been time to book an earlier flight home to avoid this.”
Told that the advice had since been updated to exclude the Balearics, including Ibiza, Mr Ramsey said: “Oh wow – even more confusion!”
Spain is being hit by a potential second wave of the virus, and any move to reimpose quarantine rules is likely to send British holidaymakers already in the country or planning a trip there into chaos.
Another Brit, 28, from London, is flying to Ibiza tonight and is worried the quarantine may cause ‘big problems’ at his work when he returns.
The mechanic told Mirror Online: “It will affect work for sure. It could cause big problems potentially.
“We have been allowed to quarantine without affecting attendance record if anyone had symptoms but in terms of having to quarantine due to a holiday out of choice – I’m not sure what my rights or options are.”
The country has been hit by clusters of hundreds of fresh outbreaks in recent days, with some being linked to nightlife in holiday spots.
Brits Steve and Tracey Grant said they had bought an apartment in Aguilas Murcia, in southeastern Spain – and face delays to work now they must quarantine upon return to West Sussex.
The Fishbourne, Chichester couple had spent days travelling by van to bring in furniture and clean their holiday apartment.
Mr Grant said they were due to drive back via France next week to get the ferry back to Portsmouth.
Mr Grant told the Mirror Online the quarantine requirement means will affect his ability to return to work.
“I work as a drive and patio restorer so will not be able to fulfill any contracts for two weeks.”
Mr Grant added: “It seems quite safe here everyone wearing masks and distancing where possible.”
A factory worker, who did not want to be named, said his holiday to Spain had been ruined by the quarantine.
The 44-year-old, from Kendal, told Mirror Online he cannot fly to Alicante tomorrow as he will not be able to work when he gets back.
He said: “We were packed to go in the morning. Not now, holiday ruined.
“We can’t quarantine, I won’t get paid for work. I can’t afford to be self-isolating.
Chloe Harris, 23, from Kent, booked a last-minute trip to Lanzarote and arrived on the Spanish island this morning.
She told the PA News agency: “When I heard the news I was quite shocked because I thought they would have given us some warning. Even just some warning that this was something they were going to consider.”
The four-night trip was booked last minute on Wednesday, and Ms Harris, who is travelling with a friend, said they had researched the destination beforehand.
Speaking before the official announcement, she said: “We had done our research and we knew that the island has only had a small number of Covid cases.
“I think a lot of people are going to rush to the airport, but because we are only here for four days, and we only arrived this morning, it doesn’t seem worth it. We are just going to wait and hear if the island is included in the quarantine.
“I would probably be fine to continue working from home and quarantine from home, although I would have to stop going into the office.
“However, my friend who I travelled with is due to start a new job on August 3 and so that’s going to be difficult to explain to her employer.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was the first official to confirm the report, saying all UK travellers returning from Spain will have to quarantine for 14 days.
Her government confirmed all travellers from Scotland, Northern Wales and England will have to quarantine themselves for 14 days to ensure they do not spread coronavirus
Northern Ireland also subsequently confirmed its residents travelling in Spain are affected.
More than 220 coronavirus clusters have appeared around Spain, especially around the Catalan cities of Barcelona and Lleida.
It will be an abrupt end to the countries’ ‘air bridge’ quarantine agreement, in fresh pain for Spain’s tourism industry which is heavily reliant on British tourists and has already been dealt a massive blow by the pandemic.
Regional governments in tourism hotspots are pleading with the UK to make destinations including Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera an exception from the quarantine rule, citing lower virus case rates than the UK and mainland Spain.
The UK government’s decision had been greeted with great concern by the Balearic leaders, reeling from another tourism blow.
Reports said earlier the UK government is reportedly set to announce imminently that the change will affect all tourists – unless they’re back by midnight tonight – but it has yet to issue a statement on the timing.
“Second wave of Covid-19 there has prompted decision to kick Spain off the safe country list,” Sunday Times political editor, Tim Shipman, said earlier on Twitter.
Nicola Sturgeon tweeted shortly after the reports emerged, confirming it before the UK government issued the travel warning.
She said: “Having reviewed the latest data earlier today, [the Scottish government]is also reimposing 14 day quarantine for travellers returning from Spain.
“This reinforces the point that these matters are subject to change at short notice & so my advice is to be cautious about non essential foreign travel.”
Spain was only recently added to a list of ‘air bridge’ countries that had an agreement with the UK not to enforce two-week quarantine rules on either side.
Tourists had been warned that outbreaks could cause the air bridges to close, and their travel to be interrupted at any time.
It comes as some regions of Spain had suffered rising outbreak clusters in recent days – with many suspected to be linked to nightlife and social gatherings.
Spanish officials had imposed fresh lockdowns in popular holiday spots as the country began recording localised up-ticks in Covid-19 cases.
The tourist town of Totana, in Murcia, was closed off this week after a spike in infections believed to be linked to the nightlife caused concern.
Health officials in Lanzarote and the Costa del Sol have placed the tourist spots on high alert this week too.
Some beach resorts areas popular with Brits had already begun imposing stricter rules, including mandatory masks in the Balearic Islands, which includes Majorca and Ibiza.
Tourists faced fines if they refused to wear the face coverings in public places, unless at the beach, swimming, or playing sport.
The region of Valencia also imposed steep fines for anyone breaching coronavirus health regulations, including face covering rules.
It became the first area forced to return to the strict “phase one” of the Spanish government’s coronavirus lockdown and prompted fears more could follow as the country slowly reopened to tourism.
Norway ended its air bridge with Spain this week, imposing quarantine rules on travellers coming from the country.
And some regions began bringing in precautions.
The Catalan regional government rejected the idea of a total lockdown, but has been urging against gatherings of more than 10 people.
On Friday, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya insisted her country was safe to visit.
“Spain is a safe country,” she told CNN.
She added that like many countries around the world that have managed to control the disease, Spain “has outbreaks but the governments – both national and regional – are working to isolate cases as soon as they appear”.
Neil Hunter, 45, from Sittingbourne in Kent, had booked a 10-day break to Lanzarote, leaving on Tuesday.
The trip had been booked since last December, but has now been thrown into doubt by tonight’s announcement.
He told PA: “We were going as a family, my wife Amanda, and teenage daughter Bethany but to be honest, since this announcement, I’m unsure what’s going to happen as I work as a train driver, and I don’t think my employer will accept me having to isolate due to going on holiday.
“I am insured, but unsure whether they’d accept that as a reason for not going, especially if Hays Travel don’t cancel for me. There’s no way I could afford to cancel myself.”
He said he understood why the decision had been taken, but that it “is a lot of money and disappointing all the same”.
A travel industry expert said the sudden decision was likely to throw many Brits’ summer holiday plans into disarray.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel said: “Many holidaymakers will be deeply angry that the government didn’t make this decision 48 hours ago, before tens of thousands of them flew off for their summer holidays in Spain. Many would not have travelled if they had known they’d face 14 days of quarantine on their return.
“The government must give urgent clarity on whether it will be updating its FCO advice on travel to Spain, as this will have a more serious impact and may require tour operators to bring holidaymakers home early at a time when they are already under huge financial strain.
“For those with future bookings to Spain, many tour operators are now likely to cancel holidays.
“People may want to support their holiday company by accepting a refund credit note or rebooking for a later date, but it’s important operators make clear any drawbacks. Customers have the legal right to a cash refund if their package holiday is cancelled.”
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