No foreign travel is ‘risk-free’, Downing Street warns


Downing Street has warned "no travel is risk-free" after a coronavirus quarantine requirement for people arriving in the UK from Spain was reintroduced.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said decisions on border measures and travel advice "can be changed rapidly if necessary to help stop the spread of the disease".

He went on: "Unfortunately no travel is risk-free during this pandemic and disruption is possible and so anyone travelling abroad should be aware that our travel advice and exemption list is under constant review as we monitor the international situation."

The Spanish Government said it is in talks with the UK about excluding the Balearic and Canary islands from its quarantine measures.

But Health Minister Lord Bethell said: "Within individual countries there is no way for us to control intra-country transport, it is therefore very difficult and challenging to have a regional exemption list, and that is why we've not been able to give exemptions to the Balearics."

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has updated its travel advice for visits to Spain.

It stated: "The FCO advise against all non-essential travel to Spain, including the Balearic and Canary Islands, based on the current assessment of Covid-19 risks in the country."

There are fears more European holidays could be thrown into disarray this summer with reports of potential new coronavirus lockdowns in France and Germany.

The change in the UK's policy on Spain over the weekend is being met with frustration from holidaymakers and travel firms.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, who said he may have to cancel his planned trip to Ibiza, described it as a "very serious situation".

Coronavirus Gatwick
A passenger arrives at Gatwick Airport, following the Government's quarantine ruling on Spain (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

He said: "The fact I may now have to alter my holiday plans is irrelevant to this decision.

"It's an inconvenience for me but it's as nothing compared to the importance of putting public health first."

A woman from Reading, flying from Heathrow to Madrid to visit friends, said she felt "horrible" about having to enter quarantine on her return.

Giving her name only as Maria, she told the PA news agency: "I get it's for safety and everything, but if people are already taking measures then I think it's so much of a hassle.

"I'm going to be there for just two nights, barely three days, so it's not even a long time."

Joe Allen, a TV producer from London who returned from Madrid on Sunday, said he "absolutely wouldn't have gone" if he had known he would need to go into quarantine on his return.

He went on: "We just have to follow the rules and we get that, but I think we're all frustrated."

Downing Street added that holidaymakers who miss out on work because of the quarantine period may be eligible for Universal Credit or employment support allowance but not statutory sick pay.

Andrew Flintham, managing director of TUI UK and Ireland, called for a "more nuanced policy" to include rules based on regions as well as countries.

Countries & territories from which people don't need to quarantine on arrival in the UK
(PA Graphics)

Speaking to Sky News, he said: "If the Balearics are still OK to go to, and clearly the travel advice says you can travel, should we have a different quarantine or no quarantine for those and not lump it all together, as in one big total Spain quarantine?

"We're really after a little bit of a nuance because, being honest, going forward, with something like the United States, it could be there's a problem in Florida but not in California, and you wouldn't want to close the whole of the United States to tourists."

Tui has suspended all holidays to mainland Spain up to and including August 9.

Meanwhile, passengers returning to the Isle of Wight from Spain have been asked not to use any of the ferry services by foot.

Operators Wightlink, Red Funnel and Hovertravel said in a joint statement that quarantining passengers must instead board the ferries by car and remain in their vehicles while crossing the Solent.

Chris Walker, 48, a university lecturer and campus librarian from Leeds, has cancelled his holiday to France over fears of the country being removed from the Government's quarantine-free list.

"We were not confident our annual travel insurance would cover us if we went ahead and things changed," he said.

"The sudden nature of it meant that we could not risk it.

"We didn't want to cut short or risk a scramble back to the UK or be out of pocket due to a sudden decision by the Government."