The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has been caught up in his department’s rule change while on holiday in Spain.
The minister travelled to the country with his family on Saturday just hours before his Department for Transport ruled that travellers returning to the UK from Spain would have to quarantine for 14 days.
Spain has seen a surge of coronavirus cases, with incidence of infections tripling in the last fortnight, from 8.8 cases per 100,000 on July 3 to 27.4 per 100,000 on Sunday, reports The Times.
Shapps is one of 1.5 million British holidaymakers either in or about to go to Spain, who have been hit by the sudden change, says The Telegraph.
How is what is safe decided?
The decision to introduce quarantine on return from Spain was announced with little warning over the weekend, but rumours of its change in status had been floated a week before.
More than 900 cases of coronavirus were reported in Spain on Friday, prompting the UK government to take action on Saturday and introduce the fortnight mandatory isolation.
Government sources told The Telegraph that the “significant increases” in Covid-19 cases in 15 of Spain’s 19 regions had forced ministers to reimpose quarantine.
They said that the data on new cases was behind the assessment on what was considered safe and unsafe, and that this assessment was used to determine whether or not to introduce a quarantine period.
The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the government could “not make apologies” for its decision on Saturday, even though it contradicted an announcement by Shapps 24 hours earlier maintaining that Spain was exempt from quarantine.
Shapps said on Twitter that he had held a video call with UK airlines and the British ambassador to Spain about the rule change.
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.
“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.”
Which countries could lose safe status next?
Raab has warned that other countries could see quarantine reimposed, adding: “There is an element of uncertainty this summer.” Both France and Germany have seen a slight rise in their number of infections according to the latest data, with the countries at risk of being the latest removals from the safe-to-fly list.
France had 1,130 new cases between Thursday and Friday, adding to fears of a “second wave”, says Connexion France.
But France’s rate of infection is no higher than the UK’s, with both countries on a 14-day rolling incidence of 14.6 infections per 100,000 people, according to the European Union’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Spain’s rate of infection is currently at 39.4 per 100,000 people, comparable with Sweden and Portugal – though those countries’ rates are falling, whereas Spain’s is rising.
Meanwhile, an entire farm with 500 people was quarantined in the German state of Bavaria on Sunday after 174 harvest workers tested positive. However, “authorities are confident the outbreak… has not spread outside the farm”, EuroNews reports.