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Spain insists coronavirus 'under control' as travel restrictions hit tourism

British tourists returning to the UK check in their luggage at Spain's Gran Canaria Airport on July 25, 2020.
British tourists returning to the UK check in their luggage at Spain's Gran Canaria Airport on July 25, 2020. © Borja Suarez, REUTERS
8 min

The Spanish government insisted on Sunday that the situation there is "under control" in spite of a recent surge in coronavirus cases, a day after Britain abruptly imposed a two-week quarantine on all travellers arriving from the country.

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The statement from Madrid comes in response to a string of travel restrictions announced in recent days, which have dramatically reversed the opening of the European continent to tourism after months of lockdown. 

From Sunday, passengers arriving from Spain to the UK will have to undergo a fortnight in isolation while Norway imposed restrictions on travel to Spain. 

In France, which shares a border with Spain, Prime Minister Jean Castex "strongly recommended" Friday that the French avoid going to neighbouring Catalonia, where the epidemic is particularly on the rise. 

"The Spanish government considers that the situation is under control, the outbreaks have been located, isolated and controlled," Spain's foreign ministry told AFP. 

"Spain is a safe country," the ministry said, adding that in the case of the British quarantine, Spain is "in contact" with London whose decisions it "respects".

In an interview with FRANCE 24 on Friday, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said the country is experiencing isolated outbreaks "but not a second wave".

New restrictions

Spain, one of the countries most affected by the pandemic, has had 272,400 cases and more than 28,400 fatalities since the start of the outbreak.

The country reported nearly a thousand new cases a day on both Thursday and Friday. Its number of cases has tripled in two weeks while more than 280 homes are being closely monitored by the authorities. 

The Ministry of Health is particularly concerned about the situation in Aragon and Catalonia, where the regional authorities have urged residents of Barcelona to stay at home. They also decided on Friday to close nightclubs and bars, considered hotbeds of contagion. 

Catalonia orders nightclubs shut amid spike in coronavirus cases
98000

Most regions have tightened the screw by reinforcing the compulsory use of masks, which must be worn at all times in the street under threat of a fine. 

In some of them, restrictions have been taken locally, such as limiting the number of people who can meet or banning visits to retirement homes. 

The central government considers that the regions have sufficient tools to control the epidemic. It has ruled out the possibility of a new state of emergency, which allowed Madrid to impose a strict lockdown in mid-March which was not completely lifted until June 21.

Blow to tourism

A total collapse of tourism from Britain would have a huge impact on the country's vital tourism industry, which accounts for some 12% of Spain's economy. More than a fifth of foreign visitors to Spain last year were British, the largest group by nationality. 

The British foreign ministry also announced it was recommending against all but essential travel to mainland Spain, a move likely to prompt tour operators to cancel package holidays and trigger claims against insurers.

Spain's Canary and Balearic Islands were not covered by the advice to avoid travel to the mainland, but holidaymakers returning to Britain from the islands will still be subject to quarantine on return.

Spain had been on a list of countries that the British government had said were safe for travellers to visit — meaning tourists returning home would not have to go into quarantine.

The announcement of such lists just weeks ago had allowed Europe's tourism sector to begin its revival after the near total shut-down prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

 

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