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The prime minister said on Tuesday while he was looking at ways to “mitigate” the impact of forcing people to isolate, the public had to “stick with the guidance”.
“If we do see signs of a second wave in other countries, it really is our job to act swiftly and decisively to stop travellers coming back from those places seeding the disease here in the UK,” he said.
“Clearly we now face, I’m afraid, the threat of a second wave in other parts of Europe and we just have to be vigilant and we have to be very mindful.”
The government is caught in a diplomatic storm with Spain amid warnings that its policy on travel to the country risks major damage to business and confusion for holidaymakers.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has warned against all but essential travel to Spain’s Balearic and Canary Islands, having already issued the same advice for the mainland.
Travellers from all parts of Spain are required to quarantine for a fortnight on arrival in the UK, a change imposed at short notice over the weekend.
Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez described the latest move as an “error”.
He pointed out that the upsurge in coronavirus cases is focused in two regions, Catalonia and Aragon, adding: “In most of Spain, the incidence is very much inferior to even the numbers registered in the United Kingdom.”
Madrid had been urging the UK to exclude the Canaries and Balearics— which include popular tourist resorts on Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca— from its quarantine requirements.
But instead, official travel advice was tightened to bring the islands in line with the Spanish mainland.
The UK has rejected the Spanish criticism of its response. Local government minister Simon Clarke told BBC Breakfast: “We respectfully disagree with the Spanish government’s position on this.
“We obviously continue to work closely with them and we wish them every success in managing this outbreak, but we’ve seen a very sharp increase in cases in Spain.
“A 75% increase in cases reported between the middle of last week and the end of last week. That’s why we took the action that we have.
“Clearly, you do have to make decisions on a country-wide basis. There is going to be internal transfer within Spain and it’s important that we do our utmost to protect the public.”
But transport minister Baroness Vere told the Lords this afternoon the government was “looking at” moving to a regional approach.
“For the time being we are taking the approach by country for border measures,” she said.
“But it is the case that it could be that we could put them in place for regions in the future.
“We are not there yet, but we are certainly looking at it because it is an appropriate consideration.”
Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, also warned today about people returning home from abroad.
“We are currently seeing a worrying resurgence of Covid cases, not just in far away parts of the world, but also in several countries across Europe right now,” she told a press conference.