Thousands of travel plans have been thrown into disarray after the UK Government removed Spain from its list of safe countries to travel to.
Spain was removed from the list of countries exempt from quarantine restrictions on Sunday 26 July, due to a spike in the number of coronavirus cases over the last few days.
Here’s what the change means for UK tourists.
Why did the rules change so suddenly?
The removal of Spain from the government-approved list of low-risk countries came following a “significant change” over the past week in both the level and pace of change in confirmed coronavirus cases in the country, the government said.
Spain had reported more than 900 new daily infections over a period of two days, sparking concerns of the virus spreading among visiting tourists.
The decision to reinstate quarantine restrictions on travellers returning from Spain was made by the UK Government, as well as the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
What are the quarantine rules?
As of 26 July, all travellers returning to the UK from Spain will have to self-isolate for a period of 14 days.
The quarantine rules apply to people returning to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Travellers entering Spain from the UK will not be required to self-isolate on arrival. However, they will be subject to the following three requirements:
- Provide the Spanish Ministry of Health with mandatory contact information and any history of exposure to COVID-19 48 hours prior to travel
- Temperature check
- Undergo a visual health assessment
Where in Spain can I travel to?
From 26 July, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is advising against all non-essential travel to mainland Spain, due to the current assessment of coronavirus risks.
Only the Canary Islands, which include Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa, and the Balearic Islands, including Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera, are exempt from the FCO advice against all non-essential international travel.
The change in advice comes after an increase in coronavirus cases in several regions, with Aragon, Navarra and Catalonia being the worst affected.
TUI has said it will cancel all planned holidays to Spain in response to the travel update, with customers to be contacted to discuss options, while easyJet has said it plans to operate its full schedule in the coming days.
Abta, the UK’s travel trade association, has advised UK tourists due to travel to Spain to contact their travel provider.
Do quarantine restrictions apply if I’ve been to a Spanish island?
While the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands are exempt from FCO advice against all non-essential international travel, visitors returning from those groups of islands will still have to self-isolate for 14 days.
The FCO has confirmed that quarantine measures will apply to those returning from:
- mainland Spain
- Canary Islands, including Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa
- Balearic Islands, including Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera
What about people already in Spain?
UK tourists who are currently on holiday in Spain have been advised to follow the local rules and return home as normal. The FCO is not advising those who are already in Spain to leave.
Abta has also advised tourists in Spain already to continue with their holiday and return to the UK as originally planned.
What will happen with travel insurance?
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has said it is "likely" that travel insurance will remain in place for UK tourists who are already in Spain until they return home.
However, those who attempt to travel to countries against FCO advice would invalidate their travel insurance.
The ABI said people who booked a trip or took out travel insurance after coronavirus was declared a pandemic may not be covered for travel disruption or cancellation.
What happens if I have to miss work to go into quarantine?
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said that no worker following quarantine guidance should be penalised by their employer, including by being put onto sick pay.
Mr Raab said that if someone is following the law in relation to quarantine and self-isolating, they cannot have penalties taken against them.
The conciliation service Acas has advised employees returning from Spain to talk to their employer as soon as possible.
Acas said that unless employees are actually ill, they are unlikely to qualify for statutory sick pay, although an employer could still offer to pay this if it wanted to.
If workers have previously been furloughed, they could agree to a further period of furlough to cover the isolation period, or alternatively agree a further period of annual leave, a period of unpaid leave, or a combination of the two.