'I have to work': arrivals from Spain vent anger at quarantine decision

People arriving in Stansted tell of their surprise at having to now self-isolate for two weeks

People flying into Britain from Spain have attacked the government’s decision to impose a 14-day quarantine on people returning from the country, saying they were given no warning and that they felt safer in Spain.

As flights from Jerez, Alicante, Valencia and Palma landed in quick succession on Sunday afternoon at Stansted airport, passengers found themselves faced with the realisation that they were about to enter into an unexpected period of self-isolation.

Holidaymakers said the decision gave them mere hours to book flights to return to Britain or face the 14-day quarantine period. Mark, a postman from Essex who returned to the UK with his family from Mallorca, said he scrambled to get a flight home on Saturday. “We got a message saying that it was happening. I looked for flights but we only had four hours to get back. So it was too late.”

The government’s decision, announced on Saturday night, to remove Spain from the list of countries on its travel corridor scheme – after Covid-19 outbreaks in the Aragon and Catalonia regions – threw thousands of people’s holiday plans into chaos.

Becky and Chloe from Hastings, who did not want to give their surnames, said they were struggling to understand the government’s reasoning for the sudden decision after a break in Alicante where safety measures were strictly followed and in an area where there had only been a handful of Covid-19 cases.

Becky and Chloe
Becky and Chloe from Hastings. Photograph: Lanre Bakare/The Guardian

“The place where were staying is a tiny little town and they’ve not really had any Covid-19” said Becky. “But coming back now is just a bit crap, because we’ve got to quarantine. I felt safer over there because everyone was wearing a face mask.

“Every other measure that they’ve implemented has come with a few day’s notice, but this one has come so suddenly,” she added.

Chloe said the government’s advice was inconsistent and confusing. “They say you can go to court and you can go to a funeral, but you can’t do anything else,” she said.

“So can I go and see my family at a funeral? We’ve been in Spain for the last week where everyone has been wearing a mask, while over here people have just started wearing a mask at the supermarket.”

Nicolas, a software engineer who was returning to London from Valencia where he was visiting family, said he thought it made little sense to say the whole of Spain was an issue when therehad been outbreaks only in specific regions.

“I thought everything was going to be more localised,” he said. “We know that there are problems in Catalonia but it surprised me that it was the whole of Spain.”

The move has caused dismay in Spain, which has a far lower death toll and infection rate from the virus than the UK, and raised more concerns about the country’s beleaguered tourism industry, which accounts for 12% of its GDP.

Carlos Gomez, a radiographer who lives in Leamington Spa and had been visiting family in Jerez, said he was surprised at the decision to advise against travel to the whole of mainland Spain.

Carlos Gomez
Carlos Gomez at Stansted on Sunday. Photograph: Lanre Bakare/The Guardian

“It has been much worse in Madrid and Barcelona, rather than in the smaller places in the south,” he said. “We’ve had less cases, so I don’t understand.”

Brian Restrepo, a window cleaner who lives in Finsbury Park, north London, was visiting family near Valencia when he read about the decision on Facebook.

Brian Restrepo
Brian Restrepo, who lives in London. Photograph: Lanre Bakare/The Guardian

“I was a bit concerned about that because I have to go back to work,” he said. “I’m supposed to start [back] tomorrow, so I have to call my manager and explain the situation.”

Contributor

Lanre Bakare

The GuardianTramp

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