Fears are growing that countries like France and Germany could join Spain on the UK’s quarantine list, as the Government warned it would take similar quick decisions in response to Covid-19 spikes.
A Telegraph analysis reveals most countries on the Government’s list of “safe” holiday destinations have, like Spain, seen Covid-19 incidence rates rise sharply in the past week to post-lockdown peaks.
Senior ministers in France and Germany have both warned of possible new lockdowns as they fear second waves of Covid-19.
Travel industry chiefs said reimposing quarantine on Spain could “kill off” foreign holidays this summer as more families decided against going abroad at all because of the risk of unplanned self-isolation with only weeks to go before schools return in just over a month.
Some 1.5 million British holidaymakers either in or about to go to Spain have been caught in the chaos with thousands in Spain left unsure over what their insurance will cover and what they can claim back.
The quarantine, announced just six hours before it took effect, even caught out Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, who is currently in Spain for his summer break and will join thousands of others in being forced to self-isolate for a fortnight on his return to Britain.
Government sources said the size of the Spanish holiday market and “significant increases” in Covid-19 cases in 15 of Spain’s 19 regions had left ministers with no option but to reimpose quarantine to the fury of trapped holidaymakers.
A senior Government source said: “It’s a fast-moving situation and what has happened with Spain has shown that wherever there are data changes we will act quickly and change the travel advice immediately.
“So it’s fair to say other countries could go back on the quarantine list. You can see the evidence of where spikes are happening and that does tend to be reflected in the travel advice.”
Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, said the Government could “not make apologies” for its decision on Saturday even though it reversed an announcement by Mr Shapps just 24 hours earlier maintaining the Spanish exemption from quarantine.
Mr Raab also warned that other nations could have quarantine reimposed, adding: “There is an element of uncertainty this summer.”
The Telegraph analysis shows France’s rate has jumped 50 per cent in a week from six to nine cases per 100,000 of the population, with 1,130 new cases on Saturday, double the previous week’s rate.
Germany, Netherlands, Austria , Switzerland, Poland, Gibraltar, Italy, Monaco and Australia also saw incidence rates rise in the past week to post-lockdown peaks. Two countries – the Bahamas and Luxembourg – have risen to higher rates per 100,000 than Spain.
France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex raised the possibility of a second lockdown as the health minister warned bars may be closed if cases continue to rise.
Mr Castex said a national lockdown could not be ruled out, but said the Government’s priority was “prevention” and local lockdowns would be imposed in areas where infections surge.
And Michael Kretschmer, premier in Germany’s state of Saxony, said: “The second wave of coronavirus is already here. It is already taking place every day. We have new clusters of infections every day which could become very high numbers.”
Germany’s reproduction rate, the key metric which determines how the virus is spreading through the community, rose above 1 to 1.08 on Saturday, up from 0.93 on Thursday. Health authorities said the new cases could be traced to large celebrations and gatherings and returning travellers.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency and spokesman for Quash Quarantine, said: “The problem is that quarantine kills travel. The reintroduction of quarantine measures is putting fear into people and means they abandon their plans and hunker down.
“The loss of confidence is a real hammer blow and the nail in the coffin for so many businesses. Further spikes across Europe will lead to wider quarantine measures.
“This is why we have to get away from quarantine being the answer. It isn’t. The answer is ramping up airport testing, temperature checks and test and trace.”
Holidaymakers caught in the chaos have been told there will be flights home but TUI, the UK’s biggest tour operator, said it was cancelling all future mainland Spanish holidays until August 9.
EasyJet said it would axe Spanish holidays when it restarted on August 1. Jet2 said it is reviewing its options. BA is maintaining its flights but slammed ministers for “throwing thousands of Britons’ travel plans into chaos” with their quarantine announcement just six hours before it took effect.
“This is sadly yet another blow for British holidaymakers and cannot fail to have an impact on an already troubled aviation industry,” said a BA spokesman.
Holidaymakers are legally entitled to refunds or rebookings for cancelled holidays and the regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority will this week launch enforcement action against carriers that have not refunded those whose trips have been axed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Spain hit back at the British decision, as its foreign minister Arancha González Laya said: “Spain is a safe country” and demanded a regional “air bridge” with Britain that would exclude the Balearic and Canary islands.
The islands have been declared safe by the UK Foreign Office but still require holidaymakers returning from them to quarantine for 14 days in Britain.
“We have asked the UK to exclude the islands from the quarantine…given that the epidemiological data from the Balearic and Canary Islands is far lower than the data from the United Kingdom,” said Ms Laya.
Baroness Harding, chair of the UK’s test and trace programme, appeared to pour cold water on airport “on the spot” testing as a way to avoid quarantine, saying the incubation period of the disease meant a person could be negative on arrival but positive days later.