The facts behind the UK quarantine on Spanish tourists

The UK has imposed a quarantine on all people returning from Spain after the country was hit by a flare up of coronavirus cases.

Brits returning from Spain will need to self-isolate for 14 days when they get home, with the government insisting it was a necessary measure to stop new cases of coronavirus in Spain being spread to the UK.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps is one of those who will be affected by the rules, having traveled to Spain on holiday with his family over the weekend.

Critics of the quarantine have questioned why holidaymakers returning from parts of Spain where the pandemic hasn’t flared up again are being punished.

The announcement has come as a surprise to many who went on their holidays, with some worried that being put into quarantine will mean they are unable to work after having little to no warning that the quarantine was being imposed.

Is it right that the UK quarantines everyone who comes back from Spain, or do they need to be more precise?

The Claim

The government has said they needed to act “rapidly and decisively” to prevent a spike in Covid-19 cases from potentially spreading to the UK.

Health minister Helen Whately said it was important to keep the UK’s rate of new cases down to avoid a second spike and suggested other countries could get the same treatment “if necessary”.

She said the “sacrifices” made during the lockdown meant it was all the more important to avoid the risk of letting the virus be spread at a higher rate once again.

Whately said anyone considering booking a holiday or traveling abroad should remember there’s a global pandemic going on and be mindful of the risks involved.

The government is trying to bring the UK out of lockdown, reopening pubs, shops and restaurants, with the economic recovery from the damage the pandemic has done in a precarious situation.

A second spike in coronavirus cases would mean a spike in death and destitution, an outcome the government would certainly like to avoid, so it is perhaps better to be safe rather than sorry even if the quarantine is more widespread than it needs to be.

The Counter Claim

However, there is a lot of anger among the people who were told they would need to go into quarantine after coming back off holiday.

There wasn’t much advance warning given that the government was imposing a quarantine on people returning from Spain, leaving people a few hours to cut their holidays short or face a 14 day period of self-isolation upon returning to Britain.

Other holidaymakers have wondered why their trips to areas where there are few if any cases of Covid-19 mean they will have to go into quarantine when the spike in cases has happened in a few specific areas.

The Spanish government has called on the UK to at least lift the quarantine for Brits returning from the Balearic Isles or the Canary Islands, both popular holiday destinations detached from the mainland and not suffering from a sudden rise in coronavirus cases.

The islands are exempt from the Foreign Office’s advice against all but essential travel to Spain, but they are still under the blanket of a 14-day quarantine.

The quarantine might help protect against the spread of coronavirus but it appears to be targeting people who haven’t been to dangerous areas. It might be better received if it was more focused on the areas where cases of the virus have spiked.

The Facts

There were more than 900 new cases of Covid-19 in Spain recorded on Friday, with most occurring in major cities such as Madrid and Barcelona. In response the Spanish government has imposed new restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus.

If you are returning from Spain then you will need to self-isolate for two weeks immediately after returning. That means going straight home from your point of entry into the UK and staying there for a 14 day period. Failure to do so could result in a £1,000 penalty.

Many holiday providers are canceling trips booked to Spain while the Foreign Office has advised against all but essential travel.

Various airlines are still offering flights to Spain, meaning many will not be offering refunds if someone cancels due to the quarantine.



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People who are not able to work because they have been forced into quarantine after returning from Spain are not eligible for statutory sick pay, whereas they would be if they needed to self-isolate after developing symptoms in the UK.

Health minister Whately asked employers to “be supportive” of staff who will suddenly find themselves unable to go into work for two weeks after returning from holiday.

The Daily Telegraph reports a number of European countries have seen an increase in the daily figures for new cases of coronavirus, with the possibility of a return to lockdown raised.

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