New UK isolation measures ruin minister's Spanish holiday

London (AFP) –


Passengers arriving from Spain will have to self-isolate for two weeks, the UK government has said, in a move that has reportedly caught out its transport minister who is holidaying in the country.

From Sunday, Britons returning from the popular destination must self-isolate, following a surge in coronavirus cases there, a UK government spokesman said Saturday.

The snap move is a blow to Britons seeking some Mediterranean sun after months of lockdown at home -- including Transport Minister Grant Shapps, according to the Sunday Times and other media reports.

Shapps had to phone in from Spain to the "crisis meeting" of ministers that removed it from the list of countries exempted from self-quarantine, the newspaper said, sparking ridicule online and further criticism of the government's response to COVID-19.

"Various government ministers would have known in advance there was a possibility of imposing a quarantine on holidaymakers returning from Spain," tweeted Labour MP Diane Abbot. "But apparently no-one bothered to tell @grantshapps."

Spain, one of the most popular summer destinations for Britons, has reported a rise in new infections barely a month after it ended its months-long state of emergency.

Health officials are increasingly pointing to nightlife as fertile ground for the spread of the virus.

The UK move comes as Spain's tourism industry desperately seeks a rebound after the virus and lockdown pushed around 13 percent of bars, hotels and restaurants to permanently close.

Britain is advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain, but that does not apply to the Canary Islands or the Balearic Islands.

Spain has been badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic which has so far claimed more than 28,000 lives there and infected more than 272,000 people.