MADRID • Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who has responded angrily to Britain ratcheting up its travel ban to Spain to include popular holiday islands, now faces the prospect of losing German tourists in the busiest summer month as well.
In an interview with broadcaster Telecinco, the Spanish leader called Britain’s decision “unbalanced” and said there were more cases of Covid-19 in Britain than in the Balearic and Canary islands.
Britain yesterday defended its decision not to distinguish between the different regions of Spain.
With its tourism-reliant economy on its knees, Spain is keen to convince Britain to reconsider as stranded Britons, prospective travellers and airlines all complained.
To make matters worse, Germany yesterday recommended avoiding non-essential travel to the Spanish regions of Catalonia, Navarra and Aragon, citing concerns over higher coronavirus case numbers and local lockdowns.
Germans are the main tourist group to Spain, behind Britons.
The moves followed a steady rise in new infections in Spain last week and led other European countries, including France and Belgium, to begin advising against trips to some parts of Spain. The advice has also created friction.
“We respectfully disagree with the Spanish government,” Mr Simon Clarke, Britain’s junior Housing, Communities and Local Government Minister, told the BBC.
“You do have to make decisions on a countrywide basis. There is going to be internal transfer within Spain.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already ordered everyone returning home from Spain to be quarantined for 14 days and his top diplomat told Sky News on Sunday that “we cannot make apologies for doing so”.
The Foreign Office said in a statement: “We have considered the overall situation for British nationals travelling to and from the Balearic and Canary islands, including the impact of the requirement to self-isolate on return to Britain, and concluded that we should advise British nationals against all non-essential travel to the whole of Spain.”
The Telegraph newspaper has reported that the quarantine measures may be shaved to 10 days, to try and save something of the holiday season.
The European Union is set to keep its external borders shut to many countries, including the United States, and is leaning towards shortening a list of 13 – Canada, China, Japan and South Korea among them – whose residents have the green light to visit the bloc, according to officials.
Before Monday’s announcement, Spain’s tourism industry had hoped that the islands would be exempted from Britain’s quarantine requirement.
Instead, the official advice was extended to include the popular summer destinations.