Suffolk travel agent slams ‘knee jerk’ Spanish quarantine decision

Passengers flying from Malaga arrive at Birmingham Airport, following an announcement on Saturday th

Passengers flying from Malaga arrive at Birmingham Airport, following an announcement on Saturday that holidaymakers who had not returned from Spain and its islands by midnight would be forced to quarantine for 14 days Picture: JACOB KING/PA WIRE - Credit: PA

A Suffolk travel agent has called the decision to remove Spain from the quarantine-free list a “kick in the teeth” for the travel industry.

On Saturday night the government announced that Spain had been removed from the list of countries that Brits can fly back from without needing to quarantine.

Now anyone returning from Spain will need to quarantine for 14 days.

Bridget Keevil, owner of Travel Stop, an independent travel agents with branches in Elmswell, Claydon and Hadleigh, said: “I don’t think that there is anything wrong with putting safety first. That is exactly what we’ve got to do.

“But knee-jerk reactions like this will absolutely devastate a whole industry.

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“They haven’t looked at the geography and been sensible and said: ‘right, avoid these places’, they have just said Spain in general.

“The two lists you have to look at are the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) list – which tells you where it is safe to travel to – and the Department for Trasnport list – where the air corridors have been set up.”

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The FCO advises against all but essential travel to mainland Spain but considers the Balearics and Canary Islands as safe to travel to as they have fewer cases.

Yet it is still necessary to quarantine when coming back from the Spanish islands.

“You’ve got the left hand saying, it’s perfectly safe to travel there and the right hand saying, but you’re not going to be safe when you come back,” said Mrs Keevil.

“It would be like someone saying don’t go to the UK just because Leicester is locked down.

“It’s just another kick in the teeth for the travel industry.”

Commenting on the new government restrictions, Charlie Cornish, chief executive of the group that owns Stansted, said: “The government is right to respond when infection rates spike in particular regions, as they are in Catalonia. But applying these changes to the whole of Spain is unnecessary and will cause huge disruption for passengers.

“Thousands of British holiday makers are now faced with quarantine on their return from Spain and its islands, even if they have been in areas with much lower risk levels than the UK.

“For example, the Balearic and Canary Islands have similar infection rates to many other holiday islands, but travel to and from these popular Spanish islands is unnecessarily being restricted because of rates being experienced in parts of its mainland.

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“The government must work quickly to develop a system that is properly risk-based which enables people to continue enjoying holidays in regions with low infections rates, while retaining the flexibility to temporarily restrict travel to areas with rising rates, regardless of the country they are in.

“This will give British holidaymakers, airlines and tour operators the ability to plan their travel with confidence and give the aviation and tourism sectors the best chance of a strong recovery, which in turn will boost the economy and protect jobs.”

Workers returning home from Spain will not be guaranteed full-pay while quarantining if they are unable to work from home, an Ipswich-based solicitor confirmed.

Matthew Cole, employment partner at Prettys Solicitors, said: “Employees who can work from home should be paid in full in accordance with their contract of employment, if their employer has agreed that they can work from home.

“For employees who cannot work from home, employers are not obliged to pay them for their absence beyond their holiday period.

“The law states that those who are self-isolating having returned from Spain or any other country not exempt from quarantine, are not eligible for statutory sick pay.

“Our advice is for employers to communicate with all staff about the potential consequences of travelling abroad.”

Mr Cole added it is “important” employers ensure they are not seen to be encouraging their employees to return to their place of work while they should be self-isolating.

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