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Foreign Office urges Brits not to travel to Spanish islands in change to advice

The Government heaped further agony on holidaymakers tonight as they officially advised Britons not to visit Spanish islands including Ibiza, Majorca, Tenerife and Lanzarote.

The Foreign Office updated its travel advice for the Balearic and Canary Islands, advising against all but ‘non-essential’ travel in line with rules on the Spanish mainland.

But there had been confusion because the islands were already alongside mainland Spain in having arrivals from them subjected to 14-day quarantine in the UK because a spike in coronavirus cases.

Spain had been pushing for the islands not to be included on the quarantine list because they have a lower rate of infection than the mainland. 

But tonight 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.’ 

The decision affects islands including Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa in the Canary islands, plus and the Balearic Islands of Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera. 

Downing Street said British holidaymakers who miss out on work due to the newly-imposed quarantine period may be eligible for Universal Credit or employment support allowance of up to £74.35 a week, but not statutory sick pay.

But employers are under no obligation to pay staff while they are in quarantine, self-employed workers will be forced to give up jobs and some people could even face the sack if they have to isolate when returning home.

The Government also warned ‘no travel is risk-free’ – and said workers who lose their jobs because they are quarantining after returning from Spain could appeal to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).

Individual airlines appear to have differing policies on flights to Spain that have already been booked.

Ryanair, BA, easyJet, and Jet2 will continue to run their flights to Spanish airports. 

Travellers may be offered a voucher to the value of the ticket or a chance to re-book if they wish to cancel – but customers should check the policy with their own airlines.

Tui has cancelled all holidays to the Spanish mainland with full refunds offered for those flying between today and  August 9.

On July 31, there will be an update on policy for holidays from August 10 onward. 

It had been claimed that the UK Government was deeply divided on how to proceed amid criticism that the previous Spanish travel advice was confusing. 

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, was reportedly in favour of establishing an air bridge to the islands to allow for quarantine free travel, according to The Sun. 

But Number 10 is said to be against the move on the grounds that applying different rules to different parts of the country could cause chaos – and it appears to have won the argument and hardened the rules still further. 

The Spanish government and Britain’s travel industry trade body, the Association of British Travel Agents, argue it is not necessary for the Canaries and Balearics to be included in the quarantine, pointing out that infection rates on these islands are low.

Abta has told the Government to ‘consider’ changing the rules, while Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya is trying to convince Britain to exclude the Balearics and Canaries, saying: ‘Spain is safe, it is safe for Spaniards, it is safe for tourists.’ 

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the airline industry’s main global body, also said the British decision ‘does not accurately reflect the risk of a regional spike in one corner of the country’. 

But one British tourist tested positive for Covid-19 in Lanzarote last week, and the UK Government fears that if the islands were exempt this could allow a loophole in the system.  

Holidaymakers including British tourists on the beach in Santa Eulalia in Ibiza yesterday

Holidaymakers including British tourists on the beach in Santa Eulalia in Ibiza yesterday

In theory, someone on holiday in Spain could fly home via Majorca and avoid quarantine.

A Whitehall source close to discussions on whether to give the Canaries and Balearics an exemption told The Sun today: ‘They are considering an exemption to the Balearic and Canary Islands. Their rates are lower so it may be on the cards.

‘But the announcement may not come until the weekly review. There has been some debate as to whether they should be included as there is a lot of traffic between the mainland and the islands, and that’s where the issue is.’

Weekly Covid-19 figures for the Balearics and Canaries show cases have remained reasonably low

Weekly Covid-19 case figures for the last four weeks show there have been reasonably low numbers in both the Balearics and Canaries, although more of an upward trend in the latter:

New cases in previous seven days (week up to Friday, July 24):

  • Balearic Islands: 40
  • Canary Islands: 95
  • Spain total: 10,990

Week to Friday, July 17:

  • Balearics: 39
  • Canaries: 30
  • Spain total: 5,695

Week to Friday, July 10:

  • Balearics: 17
  • Canaries: 13
  • Spain total: 2,944

Week to Friday, July 3:

  • Balearics: 37
  • Canaries: 11
  • Spain total: 2,028

All-time cases (as of Friday, July 24)

  • Balearics: 2,343
  • Canaries: 2,578
  • Spain total: 272,421

British holidaymaker Tom Beckett, with his daughter Elaina, recorded a video from Lanzarote yesterday showing how quiet it is and the safety measures put in place.

He told Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the video: ‘I don’t think you’ve looked at the map, because (Lanzarote) is 1,000km from Spain. It is like an infection in the Isle of Wight and isolating people in Iceland. It doesn’t make any sense. 

‘It’s four hours away from home, not an issue. Anyway I thought it would be handy to show the Government, because they have obviously been locked in Number 10 for quite some time, that this is a pretty safe place.’

Tourism leaders in Ibiza say hotels will be forced to close as a result of the UK government’s quarantine decision.

The British market is number one for the island which had already been hit by the lack of bookings during the coronavirus crisis and the closure of all its big clubs due to health regulations imposed by the Balearic government.

Ibiza’s tourist director, Juan Miguel Costa, said the need for Britons to quarantine on their return if they decided to holiday in Spain would make it ‘unfeasible’ for them to choose the island.

He told island newspaper Diario de Ibiza: ‘With the dependence that we have on the British in different parts of the island, it is a blow to our entire waterline, it is a blow to the sector in full force.’

‘The island is already registering cancellations of British tourists, which will cause many hotels dedicated to British tourism to end up closing. They cannot survive.’

Ibiza is now pinning its hopes on the governments of Spain and the UK reaching an agreement to create a ‘safe corridor’ between the Balearics, as well as the Canaries, so that British tourists are exempt from the quarantine requirement.

Mr Costa said he felt the Balearic Islands ‘are being penalised’ by the second wave of Covid-19 infections mainly on the Spanish mainland.

‘In the end, state policy is made and everything is put in the same bag, but the incidence in the Balearic Islands is low,’ he said. 

A spokesman for Abta said: ‘Abta has said consistently that protecting public health must be the priority at this time, and it is vital to base decisions about travel on the best health and scientific advice.

Ibiza's tourist director said the need for Britons to quarantine on their return if they decided to holiday in Spain would make it 'unfeasible' for them to choose the island (pictured yesterday)

Ibiza’s tourist director said the need for Britons to quarantine on their return if they decided to holiday in Spain would make it ‘unfeasible’ for them to choose the island (pictured yesterday)

‘We suggest the Government considers lifting the quarantine rules for flights to and from certain regions with lower infection rates, or to places such as the Balearic Islands or the Canaries – which are geographically distinct from mainland Spain – to avoid further damage to the UK inbound and outbound tourism industries.’

How many coronavirus cases have been recorded on the Canary and Balearic Islands? 

  • Mallorca 2,102
  • Ibiza 215
  • Menorca 98
  • Formentera 16
  • Tenerife 1,555
  • Fuerteventura 142
  • Gran Canaria 643
  • La Palma 107
  • Lanzarote 91
  • La Gomera 8
  • El Hierro 3

One tourist who is currently in Ibiza told MailOnline today that the UK’s blanket approach ‘fails UK holidaymakers who were advised and encouraged to travel’.

The tourist, who asked not to be named, said: ‘UK authorities need to buck up their track and trace to be able to distinguish between mainland Spain travellers and the island travellers.

‘Now we come back to sheer inconvenience because my government can’t be asked to take a little bit of a harder look and allow us to prove our whereabouts.

‘The Balearic Islands have a better rate in all [indicators] we monitor so if looked at logically they are telling us to come back to areas of the UK who are in a worse position that the islands, just does not make sense.

‘They should listen and work with the island authorities to be able to mitigate people trying to use them as a gateway from mainland Spain to try and bypass the quarantine, a simple stamp in those travellers’ passports can distinguish them from people who have been in the islands the entire time.

‘The sheer fact that the islands are still okay to travel to shows the holes in their blanket approach.

‘Just another example of poor planning being masked as ‘swift action’, not all action because ‘swift’ is correct. Instead of swift it should be labelled as ‘hastily’.’

Air passengers heading to Manchester queue up at check-in at Lanzarote Airport yesterday

Air passengers heading to Manchester queue up at check-in at Lanzarote Airport yesterday

As this morning, more than 50,000 people had signed a petition addressed to Mr Johnson demanding that the islands be exempted.

Spanish hotel chiefs offer British tourists Covid-19 tests when their holidays end

Desperate Spanish hotel chiefs are offering British tourists Covid-19 tests when their holidays end.

The offer was made today by the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation (Cehat) less than 48 hours after it was announced British holidaymakers returning to the UK from Spain would have to self-isolate for 14 days.

The move has left Spain, which normally receives 18 million British holidaymakers every year, in a state of shock.

The Spanish government is urgently trying to get at least the Balearic Island and Canary Islands exempted from the quarantine measure through the establishment of ‘safe’ air corridors to and from the UK.

A Cehat spokesman said today: ‘Measures have to be taken urgently at European level and tests carried out in visitors’ home countries and abroad, so reciprocity exists and tourists and workers and residents in holiday areas are guaranteed maximum security.

‘Spanish hoteliers are taking a step forward and are offering to carry out those tests on Spanish tourists when they leave their holiday accommodation, so they can offer clients maximum security.’

Saying it was ‘surprised’ and disappointed at the UK quarantine decision, it added: ‘With the surprise imposition of a UK quarantine, there is now the risk that other governments adopt similar ill-thought-out measures which don’t take into account the reality that exists in Spain, especially in mainland holiday areas and the Balearic and Canary Islands.’

Cehat president Jorge Marichal added: ‘Decisions have to be adopted on the basis of objective criteria.

‘We have to hold people accountable for ill-considered measures that can have serious consequences for tourism including hoteliers who are following the strictest protocols in Europe.’

Spanish government vice-president Carmen Calvo admitted today she had been ‘surprised’ by the UK government quarantine decision.

She insisted: ‘We have moved away from the most difficult moments when our health system was facing overload.

‘We’ve put behind us the most painful peak, but we’ve always said we were in a situation of pandemia and we will continue to be so and there’s bound to be new outbreaks.

‘In terms of statistics Spain is far from being in a worse condition than other European countries.’

‘Holidaymakers returning from the islands have expressed that they felt safer during their stay on the islands than at home in the UK,’ said petition organiser Lee Sparrow.

‘They have also expressed how everybody is adhering to the rules of social distancing and mask wearing.’

One holidaymaker in Mallorca who signed the petition, Helen Locking, said the island was ‘very safe’ and urged the government to ‘at least honour the people here to get home’.

‘I came here because there was no quarantine and now my four-year-old is going to be stuck at home for two weeks unnecessarily,’ she said.

Annette Dawson, who has been in Mallorca for ten days, said it was ‘not fair’ that the islands are treated the same as mainland Spain.

‘We have been in Majorca for ten days and have no experience or contact with anyone with symptoms, hygiene has been stepped up and the wearing of masks policed,’ she said.

The UK Government has introduced travel and quarantine controls for Spain following a spike in cases around Barcelona, Zaragoza and Madrid.

Some 1,904 new cases were reported last Friday, which was the highest since late April.

Meanwhile Catalonia regional leader Quim Torra said today that the area may take stricter measures to limit coronavirus contagion if the situation does not improve in the next ten days.

Mr Torra warned that in many parts of Catalonia the data was similar to the situation before Spain declared a national lockdown in March. He added his administration’s goal was to avoid taking as strict measures as the ones that were taken back then.

Catalan authorities on July 17 advised some four million people to remain home and leave only for essential trips, banned gatherings of more than ten people and limited the occupancy of bars and restaurants as the number of cases in the region is rising faster than in the rest of the country.

There are fears more European holidays could be thrown into disarray during ‘uncertainty’ this summer after holidaymakers in Spain were left fuming at being told they must quarantine when they return home.

The Government has stood by its decision to strike Spain off the UK’s list of safe destinations after it saw a spike in the number of coronavirus cases.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the Government ‘can’t make apologies’ for the decision made on Saturday – announced less than five hours before coming into force – that arrivals from Spain and its islands would have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Mr Raab, speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme yesterday, also refused to rule out rescinding further so-called travel corridors.

The Telegraph reported that officials in both France and Germany have warned of possible new lockdowns as parts of Europe braced for a second wave of Covid-19 infections.

French health authorities said at the weekend that the country’s R-rate was up to 1.3 and that daily new infections on Friday had risen to 1,130 – indicators resembling those seen in May, when France was coming out of its strict two-month lockdown.

A British tourist waits to check in before departing for the UK at Tenerife Airport yesterday

A British tourist waits to check in before departing for the UK at Tenerife Airport yesterday

The decision to reimpose restrictions on Spain left holidaymakers frustrated, with some saying they would not have travelled if they knew they would have to spend a fortnight self-isolating afterwards.

Close to 1.8 million holidays were likely to have been thrown into chaos by the move, according to travel company The PC Agency, which analysed the number of seats booked on flights leaving the UK for Spain between July 26 and August 31.

According to The Times, trips to France, Italy and Greece were being cancelled in ‘large numbers’ following the ruling by ministers on Spain, a development likely to heap further pressure on an already under-strain travel sector.

Tour operator Tui said that, due to the change in the Government’s travel advice, it was cancelling all holidays to mainland Spain up to and including August 9. 

Ibiza (pictured yesterday) is now pinning its hopes on the governments of Spain and the UK reaching an agreement to create a 'safe corridor' between the Balearics

Ibiza (pictured yesterday) is now pinning its hopes on the governments of Spain and the UK reaching an agreement to create a ‘safe corridor’ between the Balearics

Tourism leaders in Ibiza (pictured yesterday) say hotels will be forced to close as a result of the quarantine decision

Tourism leaders in Ibiza (pictured yesterday) say hotels will be forced to close as a result of the quarantine decision

Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth criticised the Government’s handling of the affair, labelling it ‘frankly shambolic’, and called for financial support for those now forced to shut themselves away after their arrival home.

Ryanair said today it would continue its flights in and out of Spain, with chief financial officer Neil Sorahan telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘As things stand, the market remains open, the schedules remain in place and we continue to operate in and out of Spain as normal.’

However he added that the airline’s entire operation was ‘under consideration’ as it rebuilds the route network after lockdown restrictions were lifted.

The International Air Transport Association trade group said the UK’s decision to remove Spain from the safe travel list was ‘disproportionate’ and ‘falls short’ of required cooperation.

** Are you now in quarantine in Britain after returning from Spain? Please email: mark.duell@mailonline.co.uk or tips@dailymail.com ** 

Benidorm mayor aims to ensure resort gets ‘safe’ air corridor status so British holidaymakers don’t have to quarantine

Benidorm mayor Toni Perez says his objective in the ‘next few hours’ is to make sure the famous Costa Blanca resort is given ‘safe’ air corridor status so British holidaymakers don’t have to quarantine.

The town hall chief insisted Alicante-Elche airport should be given a ‘green light’ ranking so Brit tourists can continue to holiday in the area without having to self-isolate afterwards for 14 days.

He urged the Spanish government to put as much effort into defending the Costa Blanca as the Balearic Islands and the Canaries, which are the focus of current ‘air corridor’ negotiations between Madrid and the UK government.

British holidaymakers enjoy a drink at Alex's bar in Benidorm yesterday

British holidaymakers enjoy a drink at Alex’s bar in Benidorm yesterday

And he insisted Benidorm had ‘worked hard and well’ to minimise Covid-19 risks and make it a ‘safe’ destination.

Measures put in place by town hall chiefs include a pioneering beach safety system which involves the marking out of thousands of squares on the sand to ensure social distancing for sun seekers.

Tourists and locals wanting to use the resort’s Levante beach have to pre-book their spot on the sand.

Mr Perez said: ‘Benidorm has worked very hard since minute one of this current situation to develop protocols and security measures for residents and tourists.

‘That work is yielding excellent results and reinforcing the security component which Benidorm has always offered.’

He added: ‘British tourists are fundamental for the recovery and maintenance of tourist activity which is going to plan in Benidorm, given the fact that the rate of reservations was increasing.’

In a clear reference to the ongoing government talks about a Balearic Islands and Canaries quarantine exemption, he called on Madrid to ensure ‘some tourist areas’ were not given favourable treatment.

British holidaymakers in Benidorm yesterday after the quarantine announcement

British holidaymakers in Benidorm yesterday after the quarantine announcement

He added: ‘I urge the Spanish government to avoid declarations of intent ‘which favour island destinations over mainland holiday resorts.’

He insisted: ‘Cancelling the restrictions which mean British holidaymakers have to self-isolate when they return home and creating a safe air corridor from Alicante-Elche airport is Benidorm’s objective in the next few hours.

‘We continue to work towards generating confidence in our resort and offering a safe destination.’

Karen Maling Cowles, president of the Benidorm British Businesses Association, said of Saturday’s shock quarantine decision: ‘It’s quite devastating for the town really, all of us here.

‘I personally was looking forward in two and a half weeks to seeing my son and family who I haven’t seen since Christmas.

‘They won’t be able to come now because of the quarantine as the children have school when they get back, my son has work and the same with his wife.

‘It will affect many like myself who were looking forward to enjoying time with their families.

‘Not only that, but it will affect businesses here and the economy here. It’s a huge setback for us all.

Britons enjoy a drink at Tiki bar in Benidorm yesterday following the announcement

Britons enjoy a drink at Tiki bar in Benidorm yesterday following the announcement

‘It will affect the little tourism that we do have coming to Benidorm this year massively.’

Mr Perez reacted to the UK quarantine decision by admitting late Saturday: ‘We very much regret it. In Benidorm we’ve worked a lot to minimise the risks and we haven’t got any problems here at the moment.

‘It’s a very safe destination with beaches which are very well organised and businesses which have established protocols and are applying them.

‘The problem in Spain is in certain areas, but in the end this decision affects us all and especially resorts like ours whose main market is British.

‘We are going to continue working along the lines we have been up to now, knowing that what we’ve been doing has been done well and that we offer a safe destination thanks to the hard work of everyone here.’

He added: ‘These questions of quarantine are something we can’t control but Benidorm will continue to welcome those who want to come here and will continue to offer visitors including foreign tourists maximum health security.’

Toni Mayor, president of the Benidorm and Costa Blanca hotel association Hosbec, described the shock UK move as a ‘hammer blow.’

He said: ‘It couldn’t have come at a worse time. It was looking pretty good from August 1.

‘Bookings were up including family bookings and around 85 per cent of our hotels were going to be open and we were looking forward to having at least something of a normal summer.

‘This announcement is going to bring everything crashing down.

‘The British tourists who are already here have got no other option but to stay and self-isolate when they return.

‘But I fear a lot of those who were going to come are now going to cancel.

‘There’s got to be a question mark over how many tour operators are going to carry on operating as planned.

‘It’s not just places like Benidorm that’s going to suffer, other popular holiday destinations like the Canaries and Majorca are going to be hard hit too.

‘The UK is 18 million holidaymakers every year and the British are Spain’s number one holiday market.’

He added: ‘There were hotels in Benidorm which were going to open on August 1 with the increased number of British arrivals that will end up staying closed now, and others that had opened but could shut following this announcement.

‘There’s bound to be question marks now about whether the Spanish government should have allowed discos and pubs to open so quickly.

‘But the reality here is this pandemia has been a learning experience for all of us.

‘It’s a very complicated situation. I think we can wave goodbye to any hopes of a normal summer now with this announcement.

‘I’m obviously very concerned about the outlook for the future.’

Ximo Puig, President of the Valencian Community which includes the provinces of Alicante, Valencia and Castellon, called yesterday/on Sunday for his region and especially the Costa Blanca which includes resorts like Benidorm to be given a UK quarantine exemption.

Andalucia is also fighting to be included in an air corridor scheme.

Francisco Salado, President of the Provincial Council of Malaga and the Costa del Sol tourist board, has claimed the whole of Spain is suffering the ‘tremendous injustice’ of the ‘failure’ of the pro-independence Catalan government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Catalonia is battling two of Spain’s worst three coronavirus outbreaks at the moment – in Barcelona and Lleida.

Catalan president Quim Torra warned this morning/yesterday morning (MON) he may put the entire region of 7.5 million inhabitants under a draconian home lockdown in 10 days time unless the health situation there improves.

Summer 2020 is turning into a chilling one

COMMENTARY BY MARK PALMER, TRAVEL EDITOR FOR THE DAILY MAIL

That’s it for holidays abroad this summer.

The sorry truth is that the Government’s decision to advise against all non-essential travel to mainland Spain – and re-impose a two-week quarantine – will have a dramatic knock-on effect, as millions of families rethink their travel plans. And all this just when it seemed like overseas travel was finally struggling back onto its feet.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab made clear yesterday that other countries could be next.

Refusing to apologise, he said he and his Cabinet colleagues ‘must be able to take swift, decisive action’. Yet such swift action was sadly lacking back in April, when people were still pouring into Britain from all over the world, bringing the virus with them, without going into quarantine.

Since then, there’s been hardly any ‘action’ at all on testing arrivals at airports.

Instead, we now have a blanket rule for Spain – the most popular destination for British tourists – which could affect up to two million people in the coming months. The decision was taken late on Saturday after ministers discussed rates of infection in Spain. But the data was available on Friday, meaning the announcement could have been made more than 24 hours earlier, before thousands had set off for the airport, and giving those in Spain time to change their plans.

True ‘decisive action’ surely would have made a clear distinction between mainland Spain, which has seen a surge in infections, and the Canary Islands, Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza, where there have been fewer cases.

Yes, the Foreign Office has said that we can visit the Canaries and Balearics. But we will still have to quarantine for 14 days on our return. It’s increasingly difficult to track and trace the Government’s thinking on travel, whether it’s the ‘air bridges’ debacle, which cruises to avoid, the continued red-listing of Portugal and now a blanket ban on travel to mainland Spain with hardly any warning.

Thousands will now have to start the grim process of seeking refunds from holiday companies and airlines, or accept vouchers, while travel firms who had hoped to claw back some money in August will find themselves plunged back into crisis. The summer of 2020 is turning out to be a chilling one.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk