The British government has extended its advice against non-essential travel to mainland Spain to include the Canary and Balearic Islands due to the “risk” posed by the coronavirus outbreaks in the country.
“This advice is based on evidence of increases in cases of Covid-19 in several regions, but particularly in Aragon, Navarre and Catalonia (which include the cities of Zaragoza, Pamplona and Barcelona),” the British Foreign Office said in a statement published Monday evening.
In the statement, the Foreign Office said it “is not advising those already traveling in Spain to leave at this time. Travelers should follow the advice of the local authorities on how best to protect themselves and others, including any measures that they bring in to control the virus.”
On Saturday, the United Kingdom updated its travel recommendations to advise against non-essential travel to mainland Spain, but excluded Spain’s holiday islands. It also reimposed a 14-day quarantine for travelers from the country, a requirement several Spanish regions, including the Balearic and Canary islands, were hoping to be exempt from.
The British government added that anyone who returns to the United Kingdom from Spain will have to self-isolate for two weeks, but reiterated that it was not advising visitors to “cut short” their visits.
The Spanish government and the regional authorities in the two archipelagos confirmed on Monday that they were negotiating the creation of a safe travel corridor with the UK for the Canary and Balearic Islands, where the coronavirus incidence is much lower than in mainland Spain and lower than Britain’s. But the Foreign Office’s decision to extend the travel warning to all of Spain on Monday is likely to complicate these efforts.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has defended the safety of Spain’s tourism industry in the face of the UK’s quarantine requirement. In an interview Monday night with the television network Telecinco, the leader of Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE) said that the sector “has exercised responsibility with regard to the health emergency.” Sánchez confirmed that the British government did not inform Spain of its decision to reimpose a quarantine before it made the announcement, and said the Spanish government was continuing to negotiate to lift the measure.
“We are talking with British authorities to try to get them to reconsider a measure that, in our opinion, is not well adjusted if we consider the epidemiological criteria of Spain, particularly in some tourist destinations in our country,” said Sánchez.
The Foreign Office’s statement comes on the heels of a video released by the UK Ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliot explaining that “the self-isolation policy applies for the whole country.”
A Foriegn Office spokesperson said: “We have considered the overall situation for British nationals traveling to and from the Balearic and Canary islands, including the impact of the requirement to self-isolate on return to the UK, and concluded that we should advise British nationals against all non-essential travel to the whole of Spain.”
According to July 25 figures from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the 14-day cumulative incidence of the virus in the Canary and Balearic islands is 5.8 cases and eight cases per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively. This is significantly lower than the incidence in the UK which is at 14.7 cases.
The decision to extend the recommendation against non-essential travel to all of the country, including the Balearic and Canary islands, is expected to lead to thousands of more holiday cancellations to Spain and devastate Spain’s already ailing tourism industry.
English version by Melissa Kitson.