Holidaymakers urge government to take 'targeted' approach to Spain's travel quarantine rules

Video report by ITV News Reporter Martha Fairlie

Holidaymakers are calling on the government to take a more “targeted” approach to travel quarantine rules after Spain’s removal from the safe countries list.

They have spoken of their anger and frustration after strict quarantine rules were re-imposed at short notice on travellers returning from Spain, after fears of a second wave of Covid-19 saw the European country struck off the UK’s safe list.

The change means all travellers returning from the country, including the Spanish islands, will have to self-isolate for two weeks.

Health Minister Helen Whately said Spain had seen a "very rapid increase in rates" of coronavirus and warned the list of safe countries is kept "under review".

She said if other countries see rates "going up significantly and rapidly, we’ll need to take action".

Stuart Rands, who is currently on holiday in the Andalusia region of Spain, slammed the government and told ITV News they have "got this completely wrong."

"It's a big country, Spain and all the hassle that has happened is in the Catalan region and we're in the Andalusia region, so why are we having to quarantine here when the spiking isn't happening here makes no sense to me," he said.

He added he was meant to return to Spain in couple of weeks for a holiday with his children, but the hours of work he will lose from having to self-isolate means he can no longer afford to.

The decision to reimpose a quarantine was made after Spain recorded more than 900 fresh daily cases of the deadly respiratory disease for two days running.

The quarantine measures apply to mainland Spain, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Island.

The Foreign Office is now advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain.

Mother-of-two Liz Samandi, currently holidaying on the Spanish island of Majorca, said the new rules had left her “angry”.

Highlighting the lower number of Covid-19 cases in Majorca compared to parts of mainland Spain, Mrs Samandi backed the use of regional travel corridors and having testing for arrivals at UK airports.

“It’s the blanket approach which I think is wrong, it should have been a more targeted area I think,” she said.

Spain’s foreign minister said the Spanish government was working to have the tourist hotspots of the Balearic and Canary Islands exempted from the UK’s new quarantine measures.

Arancha Gonzalez Laya told reporters: “[This is] for two reasons – number one, these are islands, very safe territories; number two, their epidemiological data is extremely positive and well below epidemiological data in the UK.

Ms Gonzalez Laya refused to comment on whether the country will now start imposing quarantine rules on people coming from the UK, saying "this is not a political exercise".

Liz Samandi with her daughter Becca. Credit: PA

A traveller who arrived at Heathrow Airport on Sunday morning told of her frustration over a delayed flight which meant both she and her husband must now quarantine at home for two weeks.

She told ITV News she could not understand why advance warning had not been given to travellers ahead of Saturday's decision, since coronavirus cases had been rising in Spain in the last few days.

This, she said "would give a lot more people the opportunity to not be so massively inconvenienced.

"Trust people to be a little bit more smart and give them the discretion to make their own decisions."

She added while her husband could work from home for the next two weeks, she had lost her job at the start of the lockdown and "going outside once a day is really, really important for my mental health".

However, she said her and her husband were "lucky... a lot of people are suffering much more serious consequences for this [quarantine] decision".

Some travellers said they were 'not surprised' by the quarantine decision. Credit: ITV News

Consumer rights and travel groups have also been questioning why the so-called “travel corridor” with the UK’s most popular holiday destination was suspended with little notice, with the sudden turn of events catching out even Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who is currently in Spain for his summer break.

According to The Sunday Times, Mr Shapps, whose department formally announced the rule change, had to dial in from Spain to discuss altering the guidance with Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.

In Scotland, Spain had only last week been added to its safe list of countries before Saturday evening’s dramatic U-turn.

Which? said just a handful of travel firms have vowed to issue refunds for Test and Trace disruption Credit: PA

Northern Ireland and Wales have also followed suit in suspending the travel corridor.

Tui, the UK’s biggest tour operator, said it had cancelled all flights due to depart to mainland Spain up to and including August 9.

In a statement, it added: "We know how much our customers look forward to their holiday abroad and some will be able to accommodate the new quarantine restrictions, therefore all those that wish to travel to the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands will be able to travel as planned from Monday, July 27."

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps flew to Spain for his holiday on Saturday morning Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

Customers due to travel to all areas of Spain between July 27 and August 9 will be able to cancel, amend or seek a refund on their holiday, the company said.

Those with holidays from August 10 will be updated on July 31, the company added, while all customers currently away will be able to return on their intended flight home.

Tui said it believed "regional travel corridors" needed to be considered and warned the Government that "uncertainty and confusion" was damaging the travel industry.

Tour operator said it was continuing to run its scheduled programme of flights to and from mainland Spain, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands, but that it was reviewing options.

Despite the criticism, the government said it was forced to make a quick decision due to the rising number of cases in Spain.

If you have to self-isolate after returning from abroad you are not entitled to sick-pay. Credit: ITV News

Employers are being urged by the Department for Transport to be “understanding of those returning from Spain who now will need to self-isolate” following the sudden advice change.

But the move is likely to cast doubt on thousands of holiday plans as would-be jet setters weigh up the risk of travelling to Spain and the requirement to stay home for two weeks upon arriving back in Britain.

Current government advice is that anyone who is required to self-isolate for two weeks after returning from abroad and who cannot work as a result are not eligible for statutory sick pay.

It is up to employers whether to pay employees who are in this position or not.