Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez responded angrily to the U.K. ratcheting up its travel restrictions to Spain to include popular holiday islands.
“The decision is unbalanced,” Sanchez said in interview with local television broadcaster Telecinco. The Balearic and Canary Islands, he said “have a lower incidence of the virus than is being registered right now” in Britain.
With its tourism-reliant economy on its knees, Spain is desperate to convince the U.K. to reconsider its thinking as stranded Britons, prospective travelers and airlines all complained.
The move followed a steady rise in new coronavirus infections in Spain last week and led other European countries, including France, to begin advising against trips to some parts of Spain.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already ordered everyone returning home from Spain to be quarantined for 14 days and his top diplomat told Sky News on Sunday “we cannot make apologies for doing so.”
“We have considered the overall situation for British nationals traveling to and from the Balearic and Canary Islands, including the impact of the requirement to self-isolate on return to the U.K., and concluded that we should advise British nationals against all non-essential travel to the whole of Spain,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.
The Telegraph reported that the quarantine measures may be shaved to 10 days, to try and save something of the holiday season. But throughout the continent, most existing restrictions may stay in place.
The European Union is set to keep its external borders shut to many countries including the U.S and leaning toward shortening a list of 13 states — Canada, China, Japan and South Korea among them — whose residents have the green light to visit the bloc, according to officials.
Before Monday’s announcement, the tourism industry had hoped the islands would be exempted from the U.K.’s quarantine requirement. Instead, the official advice was extended to include the popular summer destinations.
On Monday, James Slack, Johnson’s official spokesman, said travelers should be aware the advice could change for other destinations if they see a spike in coronavirus cases.
“No travel is risk-free and disruption is possible,” Slack told reporters on a conference call. “Anyone traveling abroad should be aware that our travel advice and exemption list are under constant review as we monitor the international situation.”
That will be of little comfort to Spain. The U.K. is critical to its economy — many of its pensioners have retired along the country’s Mediterranean coast, and British sun-seekers account for 20% of Spain’s overall visitors.
For Sanchez, the U.K.’s actions are not just disproportionate, they are flawed. He urged the U.K. to find the correct balance based on the data.
New infections in Spain rose last week to the highest since early May, but the government’s top epidemiologist explained the situation is very different now because the number of intensive care patients and deaths isn’t increasing, signaling that cases are being detected early on as medical testing has improved.
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