As lockdown restrictions in Spain became more and more eased up, the unfortunate trend in new coronavirus cases has risen sharply. This has led several regions of the country to reintroduce the measures and make wearing a face mask mandatory.
“Spain is safe for Spaniards and for tourists,” the foreign minister said.
The biggest concern among the Spanish general public is that there has been an increase in cases among the young people who have not been respecting the government-issued restrictions and have been gathering in large numbers.
Spain isn’t the only country seemingly in the middle of the ‘second wave’ as both France and Germany have both seen an increase in cases. These countries were among first who appeared to have the pandemic under control and many suggest that they have rushed to reopen their economies.
Spain has more than 272,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and some 28,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University research, and is one of the European countries worst-affected by the virus.
The number of cases there has tripled in two weeks, with more than 900 new infections reported on Friday.
How does Spain compare in Europe?
Its rate of cases per 100,000 people is currently at 39.4, according to the European Union’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). This compares with the UK’s rate of 14.6.
Spain is now comparable with Sweden and Portugal, but rates there are falling while Spain’s is on the rise.
Romania (59.7) and Bulgaria (44.8) are considerably higher. Luxembourg is far higher, but the number there may be skewed by its small population.
As seen in other countries reporting a spike in infections, the majority of new cases in Spain seem to be restricted to a few regions, including Catalonia, where Barcelona is located, and Aragon.
On Sunday, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya said the outbreaks were “perfectly controlled” and that they had been expected once the restrictions were lifted.
“Half of those who are COVID positive in Spain are asymptomatic, which gives a very clear indication of the huge efforts that all the regions in Spain are undertaking to test for COVID in its citizens,” she said.
González said the Canary and Balearic Islands, which are popular with tourists, have not recorded a resurgence in infections, insisting they were “very safe territories”. She added that the authorities would try to convince the UK government to exclude them from quarantine.
British Reintroduce Quarantine Restrictions
London’s decision to reintroduce quarantine restrictions on travellers from Spain is a new, devastating blow for the country’s tourism industry.
“We know what British tourism means for our country, and particularly for our region,” said the vice-president of Andalusia, Juan Marín. He described it as “very bad news” particularly for the Costa del Sol, where many British tourists tend to spend their holidays.
On Saturday evening, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that people returning to the UK from Spain would from midnight need to self-isolate for two weeks,.
A government spokesperson said: “The Joint Biosecurity Centre together with Public Health England has updated its coronavirus assessments of Spain based on the latest data.
“As a result, Spain has been removed from the lists of countries from which passengers arriving in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are exempted from the need to self-isolate.”
At the same time as the quarantine requirement was imposed for travelers from anywhere in Spain, the Foreign Office (FCO) warned against non-essential travel to the mainland.
The FCO said: “This advice is based on evidence of increases in cases of Covid-19 in several regions, but particularly in Aragon, Navarra and Catalonia – which include the cities of Zaragoza, Pamplona and Barcelona.”
But officials said the Spanish holiday islands were low risk.
Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airports Group (MAG), criticised the decision to force holidaymakers from the Balearics and Canaries to quarantine.
“The government is right to respond when infection rates spike in particular regions, as they are in Catalonia,” he said. “But applying these changes to the whole of Spain is unnecessary and will cause huge disruption for passengers.
“Thousands of British holidaymakers are now faced with quarantine on their return from Spain and its islands, even if they have been in areas with much lower risk levels than the UK.”
MAG, which also includes Stansted and East Midlands airports, stands to lose millions in revenue due to the cancellations and no-shows that will result from the government action.
“The government must work quickly to develop a system that is properly risk-based which enables people to continue enjoying holidays in regions with low infections rates,” said Mr Cornish.
Gloria Guevara, chief executive of the World Travel and Tourism Council, said: “Painting an entire country with the same brush does not benefit anyone.
“While we understand the concern about destinations like Spain with new Covid-19 cases, the majority of the country and its islands, which are incredibly popular holiday destinations, have fewer cases than the UK.”
Julia Lo Bue Said, chief executive of the Advantage travel agency consortium, tweeted: “There has to be a more efficient process for customers and our incredibly fragile industry.
“More confusion, no notice. Simply frustrating and unmanageable.”
A travel industry veteran, Paul Goldstein, added: “I find it astonishing that this hapless government gives us over two weeks’ notice on face masks, in order to ‘give us time to purchase one’, but barely four hours to quarantine UK visitors from Spain.
“As ever their travel advice paints with a ludicrously broad brush and causes misery, chaos and financial destitution.”
A government spokesperson said: “Protecting public health is our absolute priority and we have taken this decision to limit any potential spread to the UK.”