UK defends Spain quarantine decision

LONDON/MADRID • British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab yesterday stood by his government’s abrupt decision to impose a two-week coronavirus quarantine on travellers returning from Spain, which has provoked anger and confusion among tourists.

The measure scuppered the plans of many people either on holiday or planning to take one there and also hit the Spanish tourism sector hard just as it emerged from months of lockdowns and travel restrictions.

The move to take Spain off a safe-travel list was announced late on Saturday and took effect just hours later, leaving travellers with no time to dodge it or plan ahead.

Mr Raab defended it as a “real-time response” to a jump in coronavirus cases reported in Spain last Friday, the latest in a month-long resurgence in infections.

“We can’t make apologies… We must be able to take swift, decisive action,” he said on Sky News.

The opposition Labour Party’s health policy chief, Mr Jonathan Ashworth, slammed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government for its “frankly shambolic” handling of the measure.

At Madrid’s Barajas airport, Ms Emily Harrison, who was taking a flight to London, faced having to self-isolate for two weeks.

“It’s really bad because it’s just come all of a sudden. It’s not given (travellers) much time to prepare, so everyone is now panicking,” said Ms Harrison, from Essex.

Spain had been on a list of countries that the British government had said were safe for travellers to visit – meaning tourists returning home would not have to go into quarantine.

But it has seen cases rise in the last few weeks, prompting most regions to impose rules for masks to be worn everywhere and, in several areas including Barcelona, calls for people to stay at home.

Most of the new cases have been concentrated in the north-eastern region of Catalonia and neighbouring regions, so a lot of the criticism has focused on the fact that the quarantine also applies to areas like the Balearic Islands, which have been spared the brunt of the pandemic.

NO APOLOGIES

We can’t make apologies… We must be able to take swift, decisive action.

BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER DOMINIC RAAB, on the abrupt decision to impose a two-week quarantine on travellers returning from Spain, which has provoked anger and confusion among tourists. 

LITTLE TIME TO PREPARE

It’s really bad because it’s just come all of a sudden. It’s not given (travellers) much time to prepare, so everyone is now panicking.

MS EMILY HARRISON, from Essex, who faces a two-week self-isolation after flying back to London from Madrid.

Britain has been the country hardest hit in Europe by the pandemic.

Spain has also been badly affected, with more than 290,000 cases and over 28,000 deaths. It imposed very strict lockdown measures, gradually easing them earlier in the summer.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Johnson is set to roll out a £10 million (S$17.7 million) anti-obesity campaign, including junk food advert bans, following his own Covid-19-linked brush with death that he partly blamed on his weight.

Mr Johnson will announce his “Better Health” campaign today, which is expected to include encouraging doctors to issue “cycling prescriptions” for overweight patients, more segregated cycling lanes and a ban on junk food television ads before 9pm, according to British media reports.

“Covid-19 has given us all a wake-up call of the immediate and long-term risks of being overweight, and the Prime Minister is clear we must use this moment to get healthier, more active and eat better,” said a government spokesman yesterday.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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