Chris Whitty 'urged ministers to put Spain back on quarantine list'
How Chris Whitty killed Spanish holidays: Chief Medical Officer ‘DEMANDED ministers put Spain back on quarantine list after ten Brits returned with virus’ – amid fears that France and German holidays could also be axed
- Government decided on Saturday to reimpose quarantine travel rules on Spain
- Decision made after Professor Chris Whitty said ‘doing nothing isn’t an option’
- Ministers acted after it emerged 10 Britons had come back from Spain with virus
- Transport Secretary Grant Shapps due to fly back to UK from Spain tomorrow
Ministers decided to reimpose quarantine travel restrictions on Spain after it emerged 10 Britons had returned from the country with coronavirus and Professor Chris Whitty said ‘doing nothing isn’t an option’.
The Government’s Covid-O committee met on Saturday afternoon after Health Secretary Matt Hancock raised concerns about a spike in Spanish infections on Friday.
The group of six senior ministers, which includes Michael Gove, Grant Shapps and Priti Patel, were apparently told by Prof Whitty, the chief medical officer, that the situation in Spain had deteriorated in the last 48 hours.
Ministers were told there had been an increase in infection in 15 of Spain’s 19 regions but the ‘clincher’ was the fact that 10 Britons had recently tested positive after coming back from the country.
Prof Whitty described the number as ‘statistically significant’ as ministers took the controversial decision to reimpose quarantine on Spanish travellers at less than five hours notice.
The account of the meeting came as Mr Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said he will return early from his holiday in Spain tomorrow amid growing fears that holidays in France and Germany could also be axed because of rising infection rates.
Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, is said to have told ministers on Saturday that ‘doing nothing isn’t an option’ after a spike in coronavirus in Spain
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is said to have raised concerns on Friday about the situation in Spain
The decision to ban all but essential travel to Spain and to enforce quarantine on all arrivals coming back to the UK has sparked widespread fury among holidaymakers and travel firms.
The Government faced accusations of presiding over chaos after it initially banned travel to the Spanish mainland but said people could still go to the Canary and Balearic islands – but everyone returning to Britain from anywhere in Spain would have to quarantine.
The Foreign Office then moved last night to toughen the travel advice relating to the Spanish islands to bring it into line with the rules applying to the mainland.
The quarantine decision has been described as an ‘error’ by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez who said: ‘In most of Spain, the incidence is very much inferior to even the numbers registered in the United Kingdom.’
The decision to reimpose quarantine on Spanish travellers came as a shock to many in Westminster but a source briefed on the crunch call between ministers on Saturday said the numbers in Spain showed immediate action was required.
The source said someone on the call had said ‘if we had seen this level of infection in a region of England we would have put it straight into lockdown’.
A Government source told The Telegraph that Prof Whitty was instrumental in guiding the decision on reimposing quarantine.
They said: ‘Ahead of the meeting Chris Whitty had already made it clear that he was going to say that doing nothing wasn’t an option.
‘It wasn’t so much that the rate of transmission had increased over the previous three days, it was that there were quite a few cases of Brits coming back from Spain with the virus, so that was the clincher.’
Mr Shapps saw his own holiday plans ruined by the decision after he had flown to Spain with his family.
The Transport Secretary has come under fire for failing to have already returned to deal with the crisis in person.
He told The Times he will be back in the UK tomorrow: ‘I’ve been in constant contact with officials and industry representatives since I arrived.
‘I think it’s right to get back to work in the UK as soon as possible in order to help handle the situation.
‘The sooner I get back from Spain myself, the sooner I can get through quarantine.’
Britons make up over a fifth of foreign visitors to Spain, which relies heavily on tourism, and Madrid has said the UK government gave it no warning that the quarantine move was coming last weekend.
Travel firm TUI UK cancelled all holidays to the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands after the Foreign Office updated its travel advice last night.
TUI’s decision runs from Tuesday July 28 up to and including Friday July 31. Holidays to Spain’s mainland were were already cancelled from Sunday July 26 up to and including Sunday August 9.
Jet2 also said that it was cancelling flights to a raft of destinations in Spain from Tuesday after the FCO announcement.
Rory Boland, Which? travel editor, said: ‘This is the third announcement we’ve heard from the Government regarding travel to Spain in the last three days. Hundreds of thousands of UK holidaymakers in Spain or about to fly are utterly confused.’
France’s new coronavirus cases are also starting to rise – prompting fears that it will be the next country to be subject to a lockdown with no notice. Belgium and Germany are also starting to see a rise in new coronavirus cases
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, is expected to return back to the UK tomorrow after a family holiday to Spain
Britons arrive at the Malaga-Costa del Sol Airport, and face quarantine on their return to the UK
Labour said the Government must abandon its one-size-fits-all approach and introduce sectoral support for struggling businesses to ensure that public health measures like the change in quarantine rules for people returning from Spain do not lead to mass job losses.
The announcement of the Government’s new Spanish travel warnings came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said decisions on border measures and travel advice ‘can be changed rapidly if necessary to help stop the spread of the disease’.
He went on: ‘Unfortunately no travel is risk-free during this pandemic and disruption is possible and so anyone travelling abroad should be aware that our travel advice and exemption list is under constant review as we monitor the international situation.’
The announcement happened amid fears more European holidays could be thrown into disarray this summer with reports of potential new coronavirus lockdowns in France and Germany.
Meanwhile, the Government has refused to comment on reports that quarantine for people arriving from Spain or other countries with high coronavirus levels could be cut to ten days under plans being looked at by ministers.
Returned travellers would need to quarantine for eight days before being tested, and then only remain in quarantine for another two days should they test negative.
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