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Coronavirus UK: Tourists fly to ‘safer’ Spain despite warning

British tourists today said they were still flying to Spain so they don’t lose their money – despite Boris Johnson’s warning the country could be facing a second wave and the need to quarantine for two weeks when they get back.  

Although thousands of people have cancelled their holiday plans after ministers gave just five hours warning of the new restrictions, others remained determined to go. 

Holidaymakers leaving from Manchester Airport today claimed they would feel safer in Spain because it was dealing with coronavirus better than the UK, while others complained travel companies were refusing refunds. 

Nigel Hunt, 54, was travelling with his family to their villa in Fuerteventura. He told MailOnline: ‘We toyed long and hard with the idea of going and decided we would be safer over there than here. 

‘We live close to Blackburn and Hyndburn where cases are spiking so we feel safer in Fuerteventura.’ 

Mr Johnson defended his decision today, insisting that Europe was showing ‘signs of a second wave’, while Nicola Sturgeon said she would not book a holiday abroad just now over fears rules could change again soon. 

The PM said: ‘What we have to do is take swift and decisive action where we think that the risks are starting to bubble up again.

‘Let’s be absolutely clear about what’s happening in Europe, amongst some of our European friends, I’m afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic.’

Nigel Hunt, who runs his own business and is from the Ribble Valley, Lancashire, explained that he felt more comfortable because the family were going to their own holiday home.  

His wife Helen, who works for Lancashire County Council, said: ‘We are over there until August 17 but if things don’t change, I’ll be coming home a week early so I can use part of my holiday as the quarantine period. We have managed to get holiday insurance to cover us. I do feel we will be safer out there than back at home.’

Boris Johnson decided to reintroduce a quarantine on Spain move after it emerged 10 Britons had returned from the country with coronavirus. 

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty declared the number ‘statistically significant’ and said that ‘doing nothing isn’t an option’. 

However, many tourists leaving for Spain for Manchester Airport today were determined not to call off their travel plans. 

Steelworker Dan Guzlinski, 36, from Southport, Merseyside, was going to Tenerife with his family.

‘If we don’t go we lose our money because the holiday hasn’t been cancelled. We tried to change the destination but it would have cost an extra £1,000.

‘We are going for two weeks and the way everything is at the moment, I think we will be safer over there.’

Erica Thompson, a carer from Wigan, Greater Manchester, was flying to Fuerteventura to visit her parents.

She said: ‘I think the Spanish Government has got a better handle on it than our own.

‘Everyone has to wear masks and the Army is out on the streets to enforce social distancing measures. They are doing it properly.

‘Our government has made a bit of a mess of it from the start. I still don’t think they have got a proper grip on things.’

Mrs Thompson, who is visiting her parents for four days, added: ‘People are taking it seriously out there and sticking to the rules.

‘In the UK, people were having parties, family coming round to their houses and generally not following the rules.

‘I’m not sure whether I will have to self-isolate when I get home because a friend told me I was on the exemption list but I will have to see. I will have to see what work says.’ 

Kieran Alexander, 30, from Manchester, is flying to Tenerife for a two-week break with his friend Alex Jackson.

He said: ‘We are meeting friends who are already over there. 

‘We managed to get insurance, which was a little more expensive, to cover us so we decided to go. We just want to get on the plane now and get over there.’

Mr Jackson, 37, added: ‘We did try to get our money back but we’re unable to. We have been trying to contact On The Beach for two weeks but no one has got back to us, which is a disgrace.

‘We have been completely ignored by them. 

‘Ryanair is still flying so we would have ended up losing £1,200 in total.

‘I’ll have to quarantine when I get back but that’s OK because I’ll be able to work from home.’ 

Meanwhile, tourists returning from Spain today reacted angrily at news they would have to quarantine. 

Peter Rowen, 72, a retired engineer from Manchester, had been on holiday to Alicante with his friend, John Manning, 69.

‘I think everything the government has done regarding this pandemic has been an absolute shambles. 

‘To let people go away and then come back and have to quarantine for 14 days is out of order.

‘We are both single and live alone, so we are now going to have to rely on our families to go shopping for us while in quarantine.’ 

Chris Miskell, 64, from Crewe, had returned from Alicante with his wife, Anne.

The retired managing director said: ‘I think it’s Public Health England putting the pressure on trying to make up for the bad decisions made in the past.

‘It just seems a knee-jerk reaction and one that hasn’t been thought out very well.

‘I’m angry that I have to quarantine but at least I’m in a position where it won’t affect me as much as others, although it is still an inconvenience.’

Britain’s decision to drop Spain from its safe travel list has sparked a diplomatic war between Madrid and London. 

The Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the UK’s blanket ban on all non-essential travel to Spain is an ‘error’ and is ‘unjust’. 

But Mr Johnson insisted this morning the UK Government must act quickly to respond to what it believes are threats to the domestic fight against coronavirus. 

He said: ‘What we have to do is take swift and decisive action where we think that the risks are starting to bubble up again.

‘Let’s be absolutely clear about what’s happening in Europe, amongst some of our European friends, I’m afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic.’

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson insisted it is up to individuals to decide whether to travel abroad this summer amid mounting uncertainty.  

He said: ‘These are decisions for families, for individuals, about where they want to go.’ 

He added: ‘It’s vital that when people are coming back from abroad, if they are coming back from a place where I’m afraid there is another outbreak, they must go into quarantine.

‘That’s why we have taken the action that we have and we will continue, throughout the summer, to take such action where it is necessary.’

The Spanish Government today insisted that Spain remains a safe and ‘secure’ destination for tourists as Germany imposed travel restrictions on its European neighbour. 

Berlin has linked foreign holidays to a ‘concerning’ rise in cases in Germany and it has now advised its citizens to avoid the regions of Catalonia, Aragon and Navarre – but not the southern coast or the Spanish islands.  

The Government announced on Saturday that it was tightening rules on travel to Spain because of rising case numbers. 

But ministers faced accusations of presiding over chaos after initially banning travel to the Spanish mainland but travel was still allowed to the Canary and Balearic islands. 

However, everyone returning to Britain from anywhere in Spain was still told they have to quarantine for 14 days. 

The Foreign Office then moved last night to toughen the travel advice relating to the Spanish islands to bring them into line with the rules applying to the mainland. 

Britons make up over a fifth of foreign visitors to Spain, which relies heavily on tourism, and Madrid has said the UK government gave it no warning that the quarantine move was coming last weekend.  

Mr Sanchez told Spanish TV station Telecinco on Monday night: ‘I think the UK’s decision is an incorrect one.

‘Spain is made up of a number of regions that have a cumulative rate of contagion that is lower than the European average as well as the UK average.

‘The Spanish tourist industry has acted very responsibly over the past few months and has transferred a message of security with regards to the health emergency we are experiencing.

‘It’s true that on a global level the coronavirus pandemic continues to show a very worrying development and at European level as well, but in Spain the spread of the virus is not occurring in a uniform way.’

Mr Sanchez said the Spanish government is pushing for the UK to reverse its decision as he claimed that ‘in epidemiological terms, it would be safer to be’ in certain parts of Spain on holiday than in the UK.  

‘We are going to carry on talking because we are friends and we have many commercial and economic links as well as geopolitical links,’ he said. 

A spokeswoman for the Spanish government insisted today that the country is still a safe place for tourists to visit.  

The spokeswoman said: ‘We are a secure destination that has made preparations and strengthened itself to deal with the virus and any outbreaks.’

She added: ‘All the figures demonstrate the situation is good in most of the country, where the regional authorities have only registered a low incidence of the illness.’

Meanwhile, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned quarantine restrictions could be reimposed at short notice and said she would opt to take a holiday at home.

She said: ‘Right now, be very, very cautious about booking foreign travel that is not essential because you don’t know that when you’re in a country they may change their regulations and so you might find yourself restricted in that country and when you go to come home you might find that the quarantine rules have changed here.

‘I wouldn’t, if you were asking me, be booking a foreign holiday right now because of these reasons. I would be choosing, if I had the time to go on holiday, to spend it here in Scotland.’  

Diplomatic ties were strained after local government minister Simon Clarke said the UK disagreed with Mr Sanchez’s assessment that travel to Spain should be allowed to continue. 

Mr Clarke told the BBC: ‘We respectfully disagree with the Spanish government’s position on this.

‘We obviously continue to work closely with them and we wish them every success in managing this outbreak, but we’ve seen a very sharp increase in cases in Spain.

‘A 75 per cent increase in cases reported between the middle of last week and the end of last week. That’s why we took the action that we have.

‘Clearly, you do have to make decisions on a country-wide basis. 

‘There is going to be internal transfer within Spain and it’s important that we do our utmost to protect the public.’ 

Ministers decided on Saturday to reimpose quarantine restrictions on Spain after it emerged 10 Britons had returned from the country with coronavirus and Professor Chris Whitty said ‘doing nothing isn’t an option’. 

The Government’s Covid-O committee met at the weekend after Health Secretary Matt Hancock raised concerns about a spike in Spanish infections on Friday. 

The group of six senior ministers, which includes Michael Gove, Grant Shapps and Priti Patel, were apparently told by Prof Whitty, the chief medical officer, that the situation in Spain had deteriorated in the last 48 hours. 

Ministers were told there had been an increase in infection in 15 of Spain’s 19 regions but the ‘clincher’ was the fact that 10 Britons had recently tested positive after coming back from the country. 

Prof Whitty described the number as ‘statistically significant’ as ministers took the controversial decision to reimpose quarantine on Spanish travellers at less than five hours notice. 

The account of the meeting came as Mr Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said he will return early from his holiday in Spain tomorrow amid growing fears that holidays in France and Germany could also be axed because of rising infection rates.

There is also mounting speculation that travel to Belgium could soon be impacted after the country put the brakes on its coronavirus lockdown exit strategy. 

In other developments in Britain’s coronavirus crisis today, officials posted 12 more Covid-19 deaths in the preliminary toll as separate figures revealed the number of people dying each week has dropped to another low.

Department of Health chiefs have yet to confirm the final daily figure, which is often much higher because it takes into account lab-confirmed fatalities in all settings. 

The early count — which only includes a fraction of the Covid-19 deaths in England — is calculated by adding up updates declared by each of the home nations.

NHS England today posted 12 deaths in hospitals across the country. No fatalities were recorded in any setting in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland again.

It came as the Supreme Court judge Lord Jonathan Sumption called on Britain to learn to live alongside Covid-19 because ‘there have been far worse diseases’. 

Meanwhile, Downing Street was urged to toughen up its ‘back to work’ message after a string of top firms said they would not be encouraging staff back to offices for months. 

The lack of staff commuting into their offices has left city centres deserted and ravaged high street businesses, which rely on a steady stream of commuters and visitors coming through their doors.  

Selfridges today told staff it plans to cut 450 jobs – around 14 per cent of its total headcount – in the latest UK jobs carnage with the tally of layoffs now above 66,000 since the coronavirus crisis began.  

Britain’s cottages, hotels and holiday sites are seeing a rush in bookings as people give up on travelling abroad amid quarantine fears and opt for a staycation instead.

Families are booking up dates for UK holidays in 2021 despite the cost of some stays going up by 50 per cent as operators try to recoup some of their lockdown losses.

Those hoping for a last-minute stay in a holiday hotspot this weekend will find campsites for £150 a night or £200 a night for three-star hotels as demand soars.

One four-star hotel on the beach in Newquay, Cornwall, comes in at nearly £350 a night, while a one-bedroom cottage in the Cotswolds will set you back £280 a night.

Demand will also be boosted by rising temperatures over the next few days, with Friday expected to be the hottest day of the year so far with 91F (33C) highs.

Slots at campsites, B&Bs and cottages across Britain are also running out because holidays postponed during the lockdown are now being rebooked for next year.

Charles Millward, the owner of Staycation Holidays, told The Times: ‘People should be worried about finding availability next year.

‘A lot of dates are already taken because they will have been moved from this year – one of our properties only has three weekends free next year from March until September.

‘In general our properties will increase in price next year by 20 per cent to recoup the cost owners lost during the lockdown.

‘One property we’re booking for next year has gone up by 50 per cent. I think that will happen more and more as owners have lost thousands of pounds and need it back.’

Up to 14million Britons are expected to go on a UK holiday before children go back to school in September, giving the country’s economy a £3.7billion boost.

Havens said bookings at its 36 parks are up 96 per cent year-on-year, while demand for caravan sites is up 140 per cent in Devon and bookings are surging at Butlins.

UK holiday agent Hoseasons said it has employed extra telesales staff to cope with extra demand with bookings made for the next year up by a third on normal levels.

Its cottage break bookings are up 223 per cent over the last month compared to the same period in 2019, while call volumes are at more than ten times the normal level.

Writer and broadcaster Sally Jones, who lives in Warwick, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘I do think it’s totally bonkers to encourage people to go abroad at the moment when we don’t know which countries are going to be shut down, where we’re going to have quarantine coming back from, say, Croatia or France.

‘There’s wonderful, wonderful places in England. I think most people don’t really know their own country that well.’

She added: ‘Why not go and explore places like, say, Scotland or the beaches of Northumberland? 

‘There are these incredible places in England – most of us have never been there.’ 

British campsites have also seen a boom in bookings as people give up on foreign trips.

The website, which sends 800,000 people a year to 2,000 UK campsites, said bookings on Sunday were double last year’s high for a single day.

It took some 6,100 bookings, representing around 18,000 people, which was up by 20 per cent on the previous Sunday. Founder of the booking platform, Dan Yates, said there is a clear switch to staycations.

He said: ‘For many who were just starting to consider booking a trip abroad this is probably the nail in the coffin, with the change in regulations fundamentally damaging consumer confidence to travel overseas.

‘The tightened financial climate means British holidaymakers are unlikely to take the risk of not being able to work when they return which has likely been the catalyst for this weekend’s surge in UK bookings.’ 

The website also offers bookings to campsites across Europe. Mr Yates said: ‘The tourism and hospitality sector has been decimated by Covid and our Spanish site owners are in uproar. 

‘They believe a more localised approach which focuses on quarantine in the specific regions which have been affected by the Covid peaks would have been a more appropriate and effective response by the UK government.

‘This is, however, good news for domestic campsites and caravan parks as thousands will substitute a UK holiday for their usual one abroad.’ 

Mr Yates said: ‘The ever changing guidance is likely to cause mass confusion and concern amongst Brits, with many likely to elect to play it safe and staying closer to home this year.’

Airbnb has said that on bookings made on the weekend of June 27/28, more than 70 per cent were staycations.

A spokesman said: ‘Staycations are great for Brits who want to explore beyond their own four walls again, but also for the hospitality industry and Airbnb hosts who depend on the income from listing on our platform.

‘We’ve seen a significant spike in demand as travel becomes a reality again, with our trending destinations showing people are keen to explore the many interesting towns and rural areas the nation has to offer, providing a welcome boost to local businesses.’

Speaking about going abroad, Guy Anker from MoneySavingExpert told The Times: ‘People who booked a holiday or took out insurance after mid-March are not going to be covered by a local lockdown or the decision to change travel advice.

‘My advice would be, do not spend any money at the moment that you can’t afford to lose, or where flexibility is not written into your airline ticket or hotel booking.’

Meanwhile Boris Johnson has indicated that quarantine restrictions could be imposed on further European countries if a ‘second wave’ of coronavirus hits the continent. 

The Prime Minister already faces a diplomatic row with Spain after warning against all but essential travel to the country – and its resort islands – and insisting that travellers arriving in the UK from there spend a fortnight in quarantine due to an increase in cases.

But he defended the move and insisted the Government would not hesitate to act if flare-ups of coronavirus occurred in other destinations.

‘I’m afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic,’ the Prime Minister warned.

With holidaymakers already facing uncertainty over trips abroad this summer, Mr Johnson indicated further action could be considered by the Government.

‘It’s vital that when people are coming back from abroad, if they are coming back from a place where I’m afraid there is another outbreak, they must go into quarantine,’ he said.

‘That’s why we have taken the action that we have and we will continue, throughout the summer, to take such action where it is necessary.’

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez described the restrictions on travel to the country as an ‘error’.

He pointed out that the upsurge in coronavirus cases is focused in two regions, Catalonia and Aragon, adding: ‘In most of Spain, the incidence is very much inferior to even the numbers registered in the United Kingdom.’

Madrid had been urging the UK to exclude the Canaries and Balearics – which include popular tourist resorts on Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca – from its quarantine requirements.

But instead, official travel advice was tightened to bring the islands in line with the Spanish mainland.

The move has dealt a further blow to the travel industry, which was already reeling after the lockdown.

Mr Johnson said it was up to individuals to decide whether they wanted to take the risk of travelling in the present circumstances.

‘These are decisions for families, for individuals, about where they want to go,’ he said.

The decision to impose quarantine restrictions was made after England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty reportedly told ministers that 10 Britons who tested positive for coronavirus after July 1 had reported visiting Spain in the 14 days before their test.

Mr Johnson said: ‘I’m afraid if we do see signs of a second wave in other countries, it is really our job, our duty, to act swiftly and decisively to stop … travellers coming back from those places seeding the disease here in the UK.’

Britons make up over a fifth of foreign visitors to Spain, which relies heavily on tourism, and Madrid has said the UK Government gave it no warning that the quarantine move was coming over the weekend.

Travel firm Tui UK cancelled all holidays to the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands after the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) updated travel advice.

Tui’s decision runs from Tuesday July 28 up to and including Friday July 31.

Holidays to Spain’s mainland were already cancelled from Sunday July 26 up to and including Sunday August 9.

The company said: ‘The UK Government must work closely with the travel industry as this level of uncertainty and confusion is damaging for business and disappointing for those looking forward to a well-deserved break.’ 

Jet2 has suspended flights and holidays to Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza up to and including August 9, after the Government changed its advice on travel to the Balearic and Canary Islands.

The company had already suspended flights and holidays to mainland Spain until August 16, and yesterday evening advised customers due to travel to the Balearic and Canary Islands today not to go to the airport.

‘Where customers are affected by any programme changes, we have been repeatedly recognised for how we have been looking after customers, offering the option to rebook with no admin fee, a Refund Credit Note or a full cash refund, and we will be contacting customers to discuss these options,’ Jet2 said. 

‘We will also be contacting customers who are currently in these destinations to advise them of their options regarding flying back to the UK, so we urge customers not to contact us.

For customers who are due to travel to these destinations after the dates given above, we will provide an additional update once we receive more information from the Government.

‘What we need now is clarity and consistency from the Government. We understand that this is a fast-moving situation, however the information we are receiving is contradictory and often comes with little or no notice.

‘We want to provide customers, who work hard and save hard for their well-deserved holidays, with timely information and we need this from the Government. We would like to sincerely thank our customers for their understanding and patience.’ 

Labour said the Government must abandon its one-size-fits-all approach and introduce sectoral support for struggling businesses to ensure that public health measures such as the change in quarantine rules for people returning from Spain do not lead to mass job losses.  

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: ‘The Government’s handling of this issue has been nothing short of chaotic.’

Acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: ‘The Prime Minister is right… to warn that some countries face the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus.

‘However, it is extremely worrying that he has not acknowledged or acted upon the risk of a second wave here in the UK.

‘Yesterday, I met with families who had lost loved ones due to Covid-19. Many just want the Prime Minister to start an independent inquiry immediately, so that the Government does not make the same mistakes that cost so many lives earlier this year.’    

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