Boris Johnson has claimed there are signs Europe is facing a “second wave” of coronavirus as he defended the decision to quarantine Brits arriving back from Spain.
The Government has faced criticism for making everyone who comes back from the country, even those returning from areas with lower rates of Covid-19 than the UK, self-isolate for 14 days upon their return after a spate of infections.
But the Prime Minister said: “What we have to do is take swift and decisive action where we think that the risks are starting to bubble up again.
“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.”
It comes amid suggestions other countries on the continent, such as France and Greece, could also have similar restrictions placed upon them – a move that would throw the summer holiday plans of many tourists into disarray.
Along with the UK, Germany warn against travel to Spain as Covid-19 re-emerges
The U.K. has advised against all but essential travel to Spain while Germany warned its citizens Tuesday to avoid the country’s worst-affected regions as Spain registers a new rise in coronavirus cases that further threatens to undermine its tourism-heavy economy.
Germany updated its travel advice for some of Spain’s most popular tourist spots after a spike in coronavirus cases. Authorities are concerned Germans returning from holidays could cause a surge in new cases.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday issued a notice warning against tourist travel to three Spanish regions due to “renewed high levels of infections and local lockdowns.”
The updated advice applies to Aragon, Navarra, and Catalonia — including the popular coastal city of Barcelona and Costa Brava.
In a statement, Catalonia’s government said it regretted the new advisory.
“We do not get into evaluating the decisions by other countries but we obviously don’t share it. The Catalan government is responsible … and we are working to protect the life and health of people that live here or are visiting us,” Catalonia’s foreign affairs chief Bernat Sole said.
Aragon’s regional government called Berlin’s travel recommendation “discriminatory.”
Germany’s Foreign Ministry stopped short of issuing a formal travel warning or adding the three Spanish regions to a list of high-risk areas. Under new rules, travelers returning from high-risk zones must undergo a mandatory virus test upon returning to Germany.
Germany lifted its travel warning for Spain on June 21, as European countries gradually reopened their borders following a monthslong shutdown. At the same time, hard-hit Spain ended a state of emergency imposed due to the pandemic. However, a recent rise in cases has prompted most Spanish regions to enforce rules for masks, and in some areas such as Barcelona, orders for people to stay home.
A blow for Spanish tourism?
Germany isn’t the only country raising concerns about travel to Spain. Norway has imposed a 10-day quarantine for people returning from the Iberian peninsular, and France has urged citizens not to go to Catalonia.
Britain’s effective ban on travel to Spain following an upswing in coronavirus cases in that country’s northeast on Tuesday hammered home the lack of a comprehensive, continent-wide approach to suppressing the virus and giving hard-hit, tourism-reliant economies a chance to rebound.
The U.K. government’s recommendation against all but essential travel to the whole of Spain means that all travelers arriving in Britain from that country will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
The move not only dashed British holidaymakers’ hopes for a getaway this summer, but also fanned renewed uncertainty within Europe’s tourism industry over how to plan ahead amid authorities’ responses to new COVID-19 outbreaks.
Indicative of this were decisions by holiday companies TUI UK and Jet2 to suspend flights to Spain, which is traditionally the most popular summer destination for British vacationers.
“The U.K. government must work closely with the travel industry as this level of uncertainty and confusion is damaging for business and disappointing for those looking forward to a well-deserved break,” TUI UK said in a statement.
Boris Johnson on Tuesday defended the decision, saying it was his government’s duty to protect the U.K. from a fresh coronavirus spike.
“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.”
Johnson added that there could be further changes to travel advice down the line affecting all of Europe.
The U.K. has the highest official coronavirus death toll in Europe with more than 45,000 deaths. One of the reasons cited for that is that many travelers brought the virus back during the February school break after skiing trips in France, Italy and Spain.
Professor Keith Neal, an epidemiologist at the University of Nottingham said it makes sense to advise against travel to Spain amid the summer holiday season.
“Some people have criticized the lack of notice but with cases rising any delay would only increase cases in the U.K,” Neal said.
But Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called the new recommendation “a mistake,” saying that the upsurge in new COVID-19 cases is only focused in the regions of Catalonia and Aragon and is much less severe than the number of cases reported in the U.K. itself.
Sanchez spoke as figures were released showing that his country wiped out more than a million jobs in the second quarter of this year.
Spain’s official statistics agency INE said on Tuesday that most of the 1.07 million lost jobs were in the service sector, with the worst-hit areas being Catalonia, Andalusia and Madrid.