Coronavirus: 'Signs of a second wave' in parts of Europe, Johnson says as he defends adding Spain to UK quarantine list

Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Dan Hewitt

Boris Johnson has warned parts of Europe are beginning to see "signs of a second wave" of coronavirus, as he explained why he'd taken "swift action" to put Spain back on the UK's quarantine list.

The prime minister, during a visit to Nottinghamshire on Tuesday, said: "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."

He added how ministers have to take "swift and decisive action where we think that the risks are starting to bubble up again".

Which is why, he said, he was forced to remove Spain from the UK's safe list of destinations, meaning anyone returning from there must self-isolate for 14 days.

Mr Johnson said the UK has to be “vigilant” regarding the threat of a second wave of Covid-19.

"Clearly we now face, I’m afraid, the threat of a second wave in other parts of Europe and we just have to be vigilant and we have to be very mindful.”

He hinted that the quarantine period for Spain could be reduced to 10 days after being asked about reports of a reduction.

“We are always looking at ways in which we can mitigate the impact of the quarantine, try to help people, try to make sure that the science is working to help travellers and holidaymakers.

“At the moment you have got to stick with the guidance that we are giving, we have given the guidance now about Spain and about some other places around the world.

“I’m afraid if we do see signs of a second wave in other countries it is really our job, our duty, to act swiftly and decisively to stop … travellers coming back from those places seeding the disease here in the UK.”

Mr Johnson said people must take their own decisions as to whether they want to risk holidaying abroad this year after his shock announcement on Spain caused huge disruption for many.

“These are decisions for families, for individuals, about where they want to go,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the quarantine measures were aimed at stopping cases being brought in to the UK.

“It’s vital that when people are coming back from abroad, if they are coming back from a place where I’m afraid there is another outbreak, they must go into quarantine.

“That’s why we have taken the action that we have and we will continue, throughout the summer, to take such action where it is necessary.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says people should “very cautious” about going abroad on holiday and should consider having a holiday at home.

Spain's prime minister has labelled the quarantine rules "disproportionate", with British travellers a huge contributing factor in the country's economy.

ITV News Science Editor on how real the prospect of a second wave is

With Spain's deflated economy relying so heavily on tourism - Britons make up a fifth of foreign visitors to Spain - its leader Pedro Sanchez has been keen for foreigners to return.

He acknowledged there are two two worrying outbreaks on the mainland, but said holiday islands like the Balearics and the Canaries, are safe to visit.

He said the move was an "error" by the UK government and questioned the logic of quarantines for arrivals from Spain, claiming much of Spain's coronavirus rates were lower than the UK's.

"In the great majority of the Spanish territory, it is very low, lower in fact than the rate in the UK," he said.

Minister Simon Clarke explained why the islands had been included in advice to avoid all but essential travel to Spain, saying "transfers" between the two areas made it unsafe.

"The government's advice is clear that you shouldn't travel to any part of Spain," he added.

With the PM's spokesman's warning that "no travel is risk-free", Mr Sanchez might not be the only aggrieved leader disappointed with the UK.

During his visit to Nottinghamshire the PM took a bike ride to promote his new health drive for the UK. Credit: PA

France, Germany and several other destinations currently considered safe for travel are experiencing spikes of Covid-19 in some areas, leaving a dark cloud hanging over many summer holiday plans.

The government says "disruption is possible" for anyone's travel plans during the pandemic.

"Anyone travelling abroad should be aware that our travel advice and exemption list is under constant review as we monitor the international situation," the PM's spokesman warned.

Number 10 says border measures and travel advice can be "changed rapidly" in order to protect the UK from coronavirus.

Labour criticised the "chaotic nature of the decision making" regarding Spain, with the rule change being announced just hours before it came into force.

The shock travel advice update caused confusion for thousands of travellers already in Spain and raised questions for many who had booked holidays before the quarantine rule came in.

The PM stuck to his new rule of wearing a face covering in shops when he visited a bike repair store. Credit: PA

One person caught up in the rule change was Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, whose Department for Transport made the announcement just hours after he flew to Spain, meaning he ill also have to quarantine upon his return to the UK.

In Mr Shapps' case, job security amid his enforced quarantine probably isn't an issue, but there are thousands of holidaymakers now having to reconsider their trips due to the loss of earnings they will incur due to 14 days away from work.

For many people unable to work from home, that is the reality. The government wants employers to be "flexible" with staff forced to quarantine, but it is not offering any additional support itself to people forced out of work.

It ruled out extending statutory sick pay to those in quarantine but said some people may be able to apply for help through Universal Credit.

Mr Clarke said the government is "relying on people exercising good judgement and common sense" regarding quarantine rules, but said "there is a measure of enforcement".

When people arrive in the UK, they will have to fill out a form detailing where they will be isolating, with random inspections set to be carried out by Public Health England.

Mr Clarke said there will be "hundreds of these spot checks every day".

Professor Mike Lewis, a professor of life sciences at the University of Birmingham, said the Government’s blanket 14-day quarantine on those arriving from Spain was due to a failure to deliver and effective test and trace system in the UK.

He said: "With a peak of 50,000 arriving passengers into the UK per day from Spain and a Spanish infection rate of 39 people in 100,000, we could hypothesise this new isolation mandate would halt 18 new inbound cases of Covid per day coming into the country from inbound Spanish flights.

“When the UK is at 800-1,000 new cases per day, this number seems fairly meagre by comparison. The economic impact on airlines, airports, tour operators, hotels, restaurants in Spain and the UK will be dramatic for Spain.

Professor Lewis, Non-Executive Chairman of myGP NHS booking app, said: “The economic impact in the UK, even with a reduced number of people travelling back from Spain and isolating is significant for us too.”