Spain quarantine row erupts on BBC Breakfast as UK hits back at Madrid’s furious claims
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The UK Government does not agree with the claims of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez that Britain has miscalculated the data on the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Spain, a minister has said. Mr Sanchez has called the UK Government’s decision to impose a 14-day quarantine on everyone arriving from Spain “unjust”. 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 percent 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.”
He added the UK Government must reserve the right to take action to keep the British public safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said: “The reality is people travelling abroad will have to accept that there is a degree of uncertainty.
“As the situation changes on the ground, we have to reserve the right to take action to keep the British public safe.
“That’s what we’ve done in the case of Spain. I think we’d have faced equally, frankly, strong criticism from you this morning had we done anything else.
“If we’d failed to take these steps, we’d be accused of inaction in the face of a growing health crisis and therefore it is important to remember we’re doing this because the balance of medical opinion is it’s the right thing to do.”
He noted people who go on holiday abroad should have an understanding that they may be asked to self-isolate when they return.
It comes as Mr 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.
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But instead, official travel advice was tightened to bring the islands in line with the Spanish mainland.
The decision to impose quarantine restrictions was made after England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty reportedly told ministers that 10 Britons who tested positive for coronavirus after July 1 had reported visiting Spain in the 14 days before their test.
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 FCO’s updated travel advice.
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