Spain’s 2nd virus wave swells

The UK govt reversed course and announced on Saturday it would impose 14-day quarantine on anyone arriving from Spain

LONDON • Spain is scrambling to stay ahead of new outbreaks of the coronavirus that prompted the UK to impose a quarantine on travellers returning from the country, dealing a new blow to its tourism-dependent economy.

Only weeks after the UK included Spain on a list of countries safe for summer holidays, the government reversed course and announced on Saturday it would impose 14-day quarantine on anyone arriving from Spain. The move came after cases in the country jumped, particularly in the Catalonia region, where authorities are racing to stamp out new outbreaks.

Norway last Friday announced a 10-day quarantine for people returning from Spain, and France issued new travel warnings for the Catalonia region, which is home to Barcelona and popular beaches. The moves will further weigh on bookings in the peak travel period for a country that depends on tourism for more than 10% of GDP.

Catalonia in northeastern Spain is at the epicentre of a new jump in cases and has been expanding restrictions to try to flatten the curve. In Barcelona, nightclubs have been ordered shut for two weeks and imposed there is a midnight curfew on bars. A partial lockdown affecting 200,000 people has been already imposed in the western district of Segria.

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) called the UK decision a “bitter blow” for travellers and said local lockdowns, not broader travel restrictions would be a better solution. TUI UK, UK’s biggest tour operator, suspended all its flights from Spain and the Canary Islands that were due to leave yesterday, Sky News reported.

“Painting an entire country with the same brush does not benefit anyone. While we understand the concern about destinations like Spain with new Covid-19 cases, the majority of the country and its islands, which are incredibly popular holiday destinations, have fewer cases than the UK,” the tourism group said in an emailed statement.

Spain was one of the hardest hit countries in Europe by the coronavirus and has already suffered more than 28,000 fatalities (at press time), the fourth-highest tally in Europe after the UK, Italy and France. A national lockdown started in March had largely tamed the spread of Covid-19, but the easing of those restrictions and the start of the summer tourism season has contributed to an uptick, particularly among young people frequenting crowded bars and clubs. — Bloomberg