The BBC Radio 4’s Today host claiemd the Government should have warned UK holidaymakers planning to go to Spain that a new quarantine rule was being considered when Barcelona was first locked down nine days ago. Nick Robinson told Health Minister Helen Whately the Government had failed to treat Britons “like adults”. He asked: “Why minister don’t talk to people, treat them like adults, and when Barcelona was locked down nine days ago, say ‘these are difficult times and we need to keep an eye on it’?”
In response, Ms Whately said so-called air bridges to other countries are constantly “under review” following the Government’s decision to reimpose a blanket quarantine for arrivals from Spain.
She blasted: “What we said throughout the time when we’ve put in place the policy on the travel corridors, the air bridges, is that we would need to keep those under review, that we would need to monitor the rates in other countries.
“That is exactly what we’ve done in Spain, so we are enacting the policy that we committed to doing.
“The rate was going up very rapidly in Spain and we had to take very rapid, decisive action.
“If we hadn’t taken that decisive action, I imagine you would be asking me ‘Why are there delays, why haven’t we taken robust action?’
“We have taken decisive action.”
BBC News: Nick Robinson tells Helen Whately Government failed to treat people ‘like adults’
BBC News: Helen Whately clashed with Nick Robinson over Spain quarantine rule
Britain slapped a 14-day quarantine on travellers from Spain on Sunday after a surge of cases in Catalonia and Murcia, heralding a summer of COVID-19 chaos for Europe’s holiday season.
The decision, leaked ahead of an official announcement on Saturday, upset the plans of hundreds of thousands of British tourists sunning themselves on the shores of the Mediterranean and raised the spectre of limits on more countries.
Now the UK is watching coronavirus cases in Germany and France closely and continuously reviewing the situation in popular holiday destinations.
“We have to keep the situation under review and I think that is what the public would expect us to do,” Ms Whately told Sky News when asked about Germany and France possibly being next to face a quarantine.
“If we see rates going up in a country where at the moment there is no need to quarantine, if we see the rates going up, we would have to take action because we cannot take the risk of coronavirus being spread again across the UK,” she said.
A total of 9,835 flights are scheduled to leave the UK for Spain between July 26 and Aug. 31, which equates to a total of approximately 1.8 million scheduled seats, according to Aviation data analysts Cirium.
Germany, France and the United Kingdom are by far the biggest European tourism spenders. Airline and travel shares tumbled: EasyJet fell 13 percent, British Airways’ owner, IAG , fell 7 percent and the TUI travel company fell 8 percent.
Ryanair is not planning to reduce capacity flying to Spain after the British government’s “regrettable” decision to advise against all non-essential travel to the country’s mainland due to COVID-19, Chief Financial Officer Neil Sorahan said.
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Spain, long a favourite of British sunseekers, said it was safe for tourists and was trying to convince London that it should exclude the Balearic and Canary islands from the quarantine measure.
“For some of the islands, the rates are indeed going up, also there is some movement of travel between the islands and the mainland, so we had to do a clear policy that would best protect the United Kingdom,” Whately told the BBC.
TUI UK, part of the TUI holiday company, said it would cancel all holidays to mainland Spain up to Aug. 9, while maintaining flights to the Balearic and Canary islands.
“What we’d really like – and I think we are going to need this going forward as the world evolves – is a nuanced policy,” TUI managing director Andrew Flintham told the BBC.