MILLIONS of Brits faced summer travel chaos today with angry families losing thousands on cancelled trips, holiday companies pulling flights and workers being forced into quarantine on their return.
Confused holidaymakers fear a ruined summer with long-awaited trips to France, Greece and Italy all facing the axe after an effective travel ban was slapped on Spain.
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Downing Street even advised those who miss out on work due to the sudden quarantine should claim Universal Credit or employment support allowance – up to £74.35 a week – to make ends meet.
Workers could be sacked or lose out on cash while sticking to the sudden rules – as employers do not have to offer any pay while they are off.
Joanne Jackson, 49, flew home after a two-week break in Nerja and said she has now lost £2,000 in wages.
The care worker, of Manchester, said: “Everyone abroad should have been given two weeks’ notice, not just a few hours.
“Who is going to pay my wages? Who is going to pay my mortgage and bills? What will I do for money?”
Typifying the chaos, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was himself on holiday in Spain before being forced to rush back to Britain – and quarantine – in an effort to sort out the confusion.
He told The Sun this afternoon he was leaving his family and cutting the break short – just hours after he landed there on Saturday.
It comes as:
The devastating blow came as long-awaited European holidays for thousands of Brits were thrown into chaos with families cancelling trips to France, Greece and Italy.
Families will also lose out on travel insurance as the new rules likely mean many policies are no longer valid.
Brits returning home today told of their anger at being trapped in the mess – with many slamming a lack of social distancing as they queued to leave Luton Airport.
Chris Lacey, 66, who flew in from Malaga with wife Maria, 64, said: “The nearest outbreak to us was 1,000 kilometres away.
“I felt much safer in Spain than I do here.”
Maria, 64, said: “We were supposed to come back on Friday, but easyJet cancelled that flight. Then they made this announcement so quickly which means we have to self isolate.
“If we had come back when we were supposed to we would not have to do it.
“There were no special measures at all except the cabin crew telling you to wash your hands.“
Retired Chris Holroyde, 64, of Newport Pagnell, Bucks, said: “We have been in Andalucia where the infection rate is much lower than anywhere in the UK.”
On Saturday the Government announced all Brits have to quarantine for two weeks when returning to the UK from Spain.
Families immediately cancelled trips to the sunny hotspot, as well as holidays to France, Italy and Greece over fears of similar last-minute quarantines.
And this evening a U-turn saw Brits told not to travel to Spain’s islands of Majorca, Ibiza and the Canary Islands.
Earlier today tourists from the UK were still free to visit the Balearic islands, but only essential journeys are now advised, after ministers rowed over keeping them out of the restrictions.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We have considered the overall situation for British nationals travelling to and from the Balearic and Canary Islands, including the impact of the requirement to self-isolate on return to the UK, and concluded that we should advise British nationals against all non-essential travel to the whole of Spain.”
Explaining the policy, Health Minister Lord Bethell told peers yesterday: “There is no way for us to control intra-country transport. It is therefore very difficult and challenging to have a regional exemption list and that is why we have not been able to give an exemption to the Beleriacs.”
But the Sun understands there were heated discussion in No10 over “whether there should be a different approach” before the PM got involved and called for a simplified message.
Amid the chaos, flights could be scuppered at any moment – with Jet2 today cancelling flights to mainland Spain until August 17.
Saturday’s announcement, which gave just four hours’ notice, has affected as many as 600,000 Brits booked on Spanish getaways, as many frantically tried to get home this weekend before the quarantine was imposed.
Tens of thousands of Brits say they cannot afford to effectively take a month off work – with no guarantee from the government regarding their jobs amid the new advice.
NHS hero Nicola Ley, 35, told the Sun Online she faces two weeks unpaid after flying out to Malaga for a much-needed break following months of 45-hour weeks on the frontline.
Brits returning from Spain cannot claim sick pay – so key worker Nicola is now worried about overspending on holiday due to fears of lost wages.
She said: “We have got a private pool so we’re trying to enjoy our holiday, but it’s been ruined by the two weeks when we get back.
“We don’t want to spend any money now because we’ve lost the next two weeks at our jobs.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with me for work, if they’re going to make me take leave or holiday and you’ve got that hanging over you.”
Danielle Parsons, an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, warned: “Those returning from Spain who have suddenly discovered they have to quarantine are in a very weak legal position as their bosses don’t have to give them time off if they are unable to work from home.”
Paul Mitchell, 55, and Dawn Painter, 44, who live in East Sussex, flew into Heathrow Airport from Alicante on Monday afternoon after spending 10 days at a holiday home in Arboleas.
The couple, both British Airways staff members on furlough, questioned the decision to “penalise” Spain by re-imposing a 14-day quarantine.
Ms Painter said: “We’ve come from a sleepy little village where everyone is social distancing, it wasn’t on a beach in Benidorm or anything like that, and we’re being penalised for that, just like all the big cities are basically.”
And surgeon Miriam Cortes, who lives in London, flew into Heathrow Airport from Valencia after spending two weeks visiting family.
She said: “It was all of a sudden. I went to see them (my family) because there was no quarantine any more, but all of a sudden within 24 hours they imposed it.
“Everybody in the streets was wearing masks, in the restaurants it was very cautious, distancing was well kept – even more than here sometimes. So it felt a bit unfair.”
Coronavirus fatalities in the UK hit 45,759 today after seven more died with the killer bug – one of the lowest daily rises since the virus took hold in the UK.
But a total of 300,111 people have now tested positive for Covid-19 across Britain – a rise of 685 cases from yesterday.
Earlier today This Morning’s travel expert Simon Calder was slammed online for “encouraging viewers to break quarantine” – with host Ruth Langsford forced to cut him off.
The 64-year-old travel pro was branded a “danger to public health” as horrified fans watched in shock while he shared loopholes surrounding the 14-day quarantine Brits face when travelling to Spain.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith blasted the Government’s decision to impose a blanket policy on quarantining people returning from Spain and called on the Government to just target the specific areas that show high cases.
Mr Duncan Smith told The Sun: “The reality is we need to be much better and more focused about how to handle outbreaks in towns and areas rather than across Spain.
“We need to treat other countries a bit like we treat ourselves. If we have a local outbreak we treat it locally.”
Everybody in the streets was wearing masks, in the restaurants it was very cautious, distancing was well kept – even more than here sometimes. So it felt a bit unfair.
Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez said the two nations were “friends” and talks would continue between them as part of his country’s efforts to persuade the UK to change its mind.
Speaking moments after the Foreign Office hardened its stance, Mr Sanchez told Spanish TV station Telecinco in a live interview for its evening news programme: “I think the UK’s decision is an incorrect one.
“Spain is made up of a number of regions that have a cumulative rate of contagion that is lower than the European average as well as the UK average.
It was revealed today only one person has been fined by cops for breaching quarantine rules after arriving in the country from abroad. However this doesn’t include fines issued by Border Force, who had given out three by July 10.
Under the quarantine rules, travellers must stay indoors for 14 days at n address given to officials at the airport upon landing, and only allowed out to shop if they cannot rely on others to help.
As fears grow that more destinations will be slapped with restrictions, France and Germany have confirmed a spike in coronavirus cases, while Italy and Greece have also seen infections rise since tourists returned.
Paul Charles, founder of the travel PR consultancy firm PC Agency, told The Times: “People are cancelling not just Spain but other short-haul bookings.
“We’ve heard of lots of cancellations for holidays to France, Italy and Greece.”
France saw 1,130 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, while Italy daily cases jumped from 128 to 306 last week. Greece has seen coronavirus cases also rise since international tourists returned from July 1.
Mr Charles continued: “Dominic Raab said they wouldn’t hesitate to introduce quarantine measures on other countries and that’s simply put fear into people.”
The Foreign Secretary told Sky’s Sophy Ridge yesterday: “As we’ve found with Spain, we can’t give a guarantee.”
Mr Raab added: “There is an element of uncertainty this summer if people go abroad.
“I’m not going to tell people what they should or shouldn’t do. They should follow the advice.”
Dominic Raab said they wouldn’t hesitate to introduce quarantine measures on other countries and that’s simply put fear into people
Last week, it was reported two thirds of hotel bookings in Spain were cancelled as tourists were put off by the country’s coronavirus spike, ahead of the travel ban announcement.
For some hotels the number of tourists cancelling stays booked weeks or months ago outweighs the number of new bookings.
A spokesperson for the Association of Hotel Chains of the Balearic Islands told Ultima Hora: “The situation has turned around in the last week and it has gone from having more reservations than cancellations to the opposite side.”
Brits have been warned not to cancel their own holidays to Spain as they may be left out of pocket, and to wait for tour operators to cancel them.
However, families who have booked flights and hotels separately may not get their money back as both remain operational.
Even Scotland has seen holiday cancellations after English tourists were warned they may be forced to quarantine.