UPDATE: UK advises against travel to mainland Spain and imposes quarantine on returning holidaymakers

The Spanish tourism industry faced a blow on Saturday when the UK announced it was imposing a 14-day quarantine rule on returning travellers due to a rise in the number of coronavirus outbreaks. London also advised against all non-essential travel to mainland Spain.

UPDATE: UK advises against travel to mainland Spain and imposes quarantine on returning holidaymakers

The UK said it would impose restrictions on all holidaymakers returning from Spain after 11pm on Saturday.

Anyone returning from Spain would have to self-isolate for 14 days, the government confirmed to UK media.

The move comes only two weeks after Spain was included in a list of “safe countries” from which returning UK holidaymakers were exempt from the quarantine rule.

The UK government said public health was an “absolute priority”.

“We have taken this decision to limit any potential spread to the UK. We've always been clear that we would act immediately to remove a country where necessary,” a spokesman from the Department for Transport told the BBC.

The government said people currently on holiday in Spain should follow the local rules, return home as normal, and check the Foreign Office's travel advice website for further information.

 “The Joint Biosecurity Centre together with Public Health England have updated their coronavirus assessments of Spain based on the latest data,” said a British government spokesman.

“As a result, Spain has been removed from the lists of countries from which passengers arriving in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are exempted from the need to self-isolate.”

The surprise move comes after a rise in cases in recent days, especially in the region of Catalonia, which stepped up curbs on Saturday by closing all nightclubs for 14 days.

The order, which will come into effect on Saturday and remain in force for two weeks, was given as Spain watches more than 280 new outbreaks, with virus cases tripling in the past fortnight.

Nearly half of all new cases have been in Catalonia, where just a week ago, officials urged nearly four million residents of metropolitan Barcelona to stay home unless absolutely necessary. 

However not everywhere in Spain had seen a surge in cases with the tourism hub around Costa del Sol not reporting worrying rises.

UK tourists have been told they would avoid the two-week quarantine rule if they made it back to the UK before 11pm on Saturday evening.

The UK government also said it was advising its citizens against all non-essential travel to mainland Spain. While it confirmed it was not advising against travel to either the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Minorca, Ibiza) or the Canary Islands UK visitors to those areas would still need to abide by the quarantine on return.

Some health officials have been suggested Spain could already be at the beginning of a second wave.

Maria José Sierra, the deputy head of Spain's health emergencies said that while the curve had been flattened “community transmission was being seen in north-eastern areas.”

“It could already be a second wave, but that's not the most important thing,” Sierra told reporters. “The most important thing is that we keep following what's going on, see what measures are necessary and take them early.”

But in an interview with CNN on Friday, the foreign minister, Arancha González Laya, said Spain was one of the countries with the “most controls and mechanisms for identifying outbreaks”.

She dismissed suggestions of a second wave of Covid-19. “We’re not worried; we’re identifying cases and isolating them to cut off transmission,” she said.

“As long as we don’t have a vaccine or a treatment, this is what the new normality will be like. We ask citizens to comply with the restrictions and behave in a responsible manner. There isn’t a second outbreak but there are one-off outbreaks.”

France has also been worriedly watching the situation in Catalonia, with Prime Minister Jean Castex on Friday urging French nationals “to avoid going there until the health situation improves”.

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US to end Covid testing requirement for travellers from Europe

Authorities in the USA have announced the end of the Covid-testing requirement for arrivals from Europe, meaning that fully vaccinated people will soon be able to travel between Europe and the US without needing pre-travel tests.

US to end Covid testing requirement for travellers from Europe

Most of Europe had dropped the testing requirement for fully-vaccinated arrivals in the spring, but the US has maintained the requirement to show proof of a negative test for all arrivals.

However on Friday, the Biden administration announced that it would not renew the testing requirement.

The new rule is expected to come into effect at 12.01 Sunday EDT, until then passengers will still need to show a negative Covid test before they can board a plane to the US.

The US currently bars unvaccinated travellers from entry – although this does not apply to US citizens, US residents or those travelling for essential reasons – there was no announcement on lifting this restriction. 

The CDC said that testing requirements could be reinstated if new variants of Covid emerge, and added that it continues to recommend pre-travel testing. 

Covid travel rules vary between individual countries in Europe, but most countries now only require pre-departure tests for unvaccinated travellers. Check the rules of the country you are travelling to for full details. 

To be counted as ‘fully vaccinated’ travellers must have received both doses of an EMA-approved vaccine – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca (or a single dose of Janssen).

If their vaccination was more than nine months ago, they need a booster shot in order to be considered fully vaccinated – people who have had a booster do not need a second, even if their booster shot was more than nine months ago.