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Spain in race to save summer season as UK cuts quarantine

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. Photo: Reuters

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. Photo: Reuters

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. Photo: Reuters

Spain's tourism industry is at increasing risk of being shut down as countries across Europe seek to restrict visits to the Mediterranean nation following an order by the British government to quarantine visitors.

A steady increase in new infections in Spain last week pushed Boris Johnson's ­government on Saturday to order a 14-day quarantine for all visitors from Spain. Other European countries, including Belgium, France and ­Norway, have also begun advising against visits to certain areas in Spain, and more restrictions could be coming.

The developments came as it was reported that the UK was drawing up plans to reduce the quarantine period to 10 days.

The UK government hopes to announce this week a new policy of testing arrivals from high-risk countries eight days after they land. If they test negative they will be allowed to come out of self-isolation two days later, reducing the mandatory quarantine period by four days.

The increase in new cases is "definitely an issue" for Germany too, Berlin's Health Minister Dilek Kalayci said in an interview yesterday with ZDF television.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's government downplayed the trends as it sought to protect a sector that accounts for 12pc of the country's economy.

"Spain is a safe country," ­Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said. "Spain has outbreaks. As do other countries. What's important is that Spain is making great efforts to control these outbreaks."

But the risks are becoming all too real in Catalonia, where the regional government sounded the alarm as it seeks to contain the spread.

Over the weekend, authorities put restrictions on nightlife, shutting clubs and requiring bars to close at midnight.

"I wouldn't make an appearance like this nor a call like this is if the situation weren't critical, if the evolution of the data weren't highly ­concerning," Catalan's President Joaquim Torra said ­yesterday. Still, Catalonia is safe for tourists, he insisted. Airline and other travel industry stocks have plunged. The Stoxx 600 Travel & Leisure Index dropped as much as 3.6pc earlier, the most in about a month. EasyJet was down 11pc, while British Airways parent IAG fell 10pc and Ryanair slid 9pc.

The UK's decision to quarantine travellers from Spain ­creates a tense standoff between two countries that need each other.

Ryanair, which yesterday posted a €185m quarterly loss, called the new rule "regrettable" and said a second wave is the firm's biggest fear.

UK ministers hope changes to quarantine arrangements will help salvage the summer holiday season for some of those already booked on flights abroad.

The Cabinet coronavirus committee decided to reimpose quarantine on all arrivals from Spain after being told 10 Britons had this month tested positive for coronavirus after returning from the country.

Although positive tests are still running at more than 700 per day in the UK, the ministers were told that the imported cases were "statistically significant" and decided they could not risk millions of people going to Spain over the coming weeks.

The government is now considering telling everyone who has come into the UK from Spain since July 23, including returning holidaymakers, to take a coronavirus test.

It came as ministers ignored pleas from Spain and the travel industry to exempt Spain's islands, including the Canaries and the Balearics, from the quarantine measures because of their lower rates of infection.

Irish Independent