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UK travellers from Spain must quarantine – but Foreign Office won’t advise against islands

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The UK ‘travel corridors’ scheme descended into chaos yesterday as new rules were imposed on people returning from Spain.

From today, anyone returning to the UK from Spain will be forced to undertake a 14 day quarantine.  This has been imposed after a surge in coronavirus cases in parts of the mainland.

The current ‘travel corridors’ list is here on gov.uk.

Because the restrictions will be imposed with just 24 hours notice, it will catch out many people who travelled to Spain in the belief that they could return to work immediately upon their return.  Many, unable to work from home, will now face having to take two weeks of unpaid leave.

The only ‘positive’ side is that it is still early in the English school holidays and very few will be forced to miss lessons next term due to this.  (Scottish children will be hit, with school resuming on 11th August.)  It will, however, wreck the holiday plans of many people who have just booked flights and potentially non-refundable hotels for August.

This move puts the future of the entire ‘travel corridors’ scheme into question.  You can no longer book a trip to a country in the travel corridor scheme safe in the knowledge that you will be able to return and head straight back to work or school.

Here’s is the bigger problem though.

The only way to cancel your trip and make a claim on your travel insurance would be if the Foreign Office advised against travel to Spain.

However, whilst the Foreign Office has advised against travel to MAINLAND Spain, it has NOT recommended against travel to the Canary Islands or Balearic Islands as infection levels remain low.

This means that you cannot make a claim on your travel insurance on the grounds of Foreign Office advice if you are travelling to Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro, La Graciosa, Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza or Formentera.  If you cannot get a refund from your airline or hotel, your insurance won’t help.

If this sounds illogical, here is the reason.  The quarantine list is set out by entire countries or territories – the legislation does not allow for only specific parts of a country to be quarantined.  This is why you must quarantine on your return from the Canary Islands, even though they are 660 miles from mainland Spain.  The Foreign Office advice is more granular which is why the Canaries and Balearics are deemed safe.

Here is the official text from the Foreign Office website:

From 26 July, the FCO advises against all non-essential travel to mainland Spain based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks. Only the Canary Islands (Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa) and Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera) are exempt from the FCO advice against all non-essential international travel.

This advice is based on evidence of increases in cases of COVID-19 in several regions, but particularly in Aragon, Navarra and Catalonia (which include the cities of Zaragoza, Pamplona and Barcelona).

The FCO is not advising those already travelling in Spain to leave at this time. Travellers should follow the advice of the local authorities on how best to protect themselves and others, including any measures that they bring in to control the virus. If you are returning from Spain (including from the Balearics and Canaries) on or after 26 July you will be required to quarantine on your return to the UK, but the FCO is not advising you to cut short your visit. You should contact your tour operator or airline if you have any questions about your return journey.

PHE are continuing to monitor the situation in the Balearic and Canary Islands closely. Travellers there should continue to check this advice regularly.

PS.  It is, of course, worth remembering that – in practice – the UK Government is not actively enforcing the quarantine rules in England.  Not a single person was fined for breaking them in the two weeks for which data is available, and the only testing done is to call you on your mobile phone and ask if you are at home.

Comments (273)

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  • Colin says:

    “ You can no longer book a trip to a country in the travel corridor scheme safe in the knowledge that you will be able to return and head straight back to work or school.”

    It’s always been pretty obvious something like this could happen. If you’re booking a holiday at the moment then there’s a much bigger risk than usual of it being cancelled or disrupted. I’ve no problem with people taking that risk but it’s not exactly an unknown risk.

    • Nick_C says:

      Absolutely.

      And the scheme has not descended into chaos. The list of countries is dynamic, and it was always clear that that would be the case. It is right and proper that countries are added to or removed from the list as infection rates change.

      But the worst thing about this piece of “journalism” is the “nudge nudge wink wink” suggestion that people returning from Spain should break the law and ignore the requirement to quarantine. Dangerous advice that puts lives at risk.

      • Andrew Mc says:

        +1. Sorry Rob, but you’ve badly misjudged this one.

        • Alan S says:

          Have to agree with this.

          Found the last ‘ps’ paragraph to be badly misjudged and disappointing to read.

          • Zap says:

            +1.

          • Leo says:

            +1. Sorry Rob poor show.

          • Liz says:

            I agree on this too! I am no fan of our Nicola up here in Scotland but she’s been telling us this for a couple of weeks now that the whole travel thing is subject to change at very short notice – holiday in the UK this year and help our own economy.

          • Yorkieflyer says:

            Early risers on the day of rest seem incredibly po faced

          • Alex Sm says:

            @Liz UK levels of infections are still one of if not the highest in Europe, so basically travelling to anywhere in Europe is safer than to stay in the UK! and do you remember what happened in Dorset – do you want all these people descend there again? or go to Scotland? Or London? Be careful with what you may wish…

        • ChrisW says:

          Agree. Very poor advice.

      • BS says:

        Agreed. I’ve noticed this a lot from Rob before – just break the law and you’ll get away from it.

        It’s this terrible attitude that leads to further spreading. Putting the wants (not needs) of the individual ahead of the group good is exactly how this Coronavirus spreads, and is an incredibly selfish attitude.

        • Bosco says:

          I absolutely agree. You could however also add in ‘spurious’ air travel.

        • Andrew says:

          +1. Covid is a dynamic situation around the world and just as here, once things open it doesn’t mean they will remain open (get your hair cut while you can!). And this site should not be advocating breaking the law – it’s nearly as bad as those people refusing to wear masks in shops. The quicker everyone starts following the rules, the quicker we will be out of this. We all just need to accept that travel over the next few years is going to be pretty difficult. (And it’s return from ‘Spain’ not from ‘Spanish’)

          • krys_k says:

            Last paragraph is a statement of fact.

            And if anyone is to be blamed for breaking quarantine it’s both those that do it and the government for being lackadaisical in its enforcement.

          • Alex Sm says:

            What is “lackadaisical”? Did you mean laissez-faire?

        • Alex Sm says:

          That’s BS. The governments all over the world have bent their citizens enough and crippled the economies because of the threat which is significant but not critical. Even the police and the shops themselves have almost openly defied masks in the shops policy, so the quarantine is a necessary precaution when one has reasons for it but not as blanket policy.

      • Aliks says:

        What a lot of pious outrage against the realities of life!

        Blanket statements made by the government, doctors, etc will always have exceptions and contradictions, and yes, it looks chaotic when different authorities say different things. You might say to err on the side of caution, but that would mean never driving a car again because there is a tiny chance you will run someone over.

        In the real world people are rightly making their own judgements on lockdown easing. Like it or not there is a balance between risks to your own health, the health of others, and the need to get on with life. Information from Rob and others helps us make responsible decisions.

      • Paul says:

        I would say that in this article Rob just offers up the facts. If nobody has been fined for not following the rules, then nobody had been find. End of.
        Perhaps we are so used to opinionated journalism that we now expect it?
        It’s pretty simple to me. You should no longer go to mainland Spain. If you are going to one of the islands you should use common sense on your return. If you can’t use common sense, then don’t go. Claim on your insurance or accept the loss.
        Also, nice one Rob for pulling this together on a Saturday night and to all those ripping Rob to shreds, here’s a word from my late grandmother… “if you’ve nothing positive to say, don’t say owt at all”….

        • The Hunter says:

          I don’t feel that the last paragraph ‘just offers the facts’ – It states that “It is, of course, worth remembering that – in practice…”. Those words aren’t required for a statement of fact, and are more appropriate if suggesting it as an option.
          Also, “the only testing done is to call YOU on YOUR mobile phone”, says to me that this is a suggestion to the reading.
          I agree with those above who feel that this is wholly inappropriate.

    • Dave says:

      You beat me to it Colin. Was going to say exactly the same thing! It’s impossible to plan or assume anything in the current environment and anyone booking travel needs to be prepared for changes or cancellations at short notice

      • Alex Sm says:

        This is the reality of travel nowadays which many, including myself, notes here in the comments. We are in the era of short-term planning, last-minute bookings, direct flights and going to places which are open and safe rather than those which we would like to go

    • heinztein says:

      Agree with the above but the suggestion of avoiding quarantine is hardly surprising – several of the suggestions I’ve read on the site (driven by reader demand, not Rob’s own penchants, I imagine) are geared around breaking rules to one’s own personal gain – thinking here of those who put their Iberia accounts into a substantial negative balance, and those who camel BA Amex cards but subsequently use the 241 voucher.

  • Patrycja says:

    I am flying back from Mallorca to Edinburgh today and will report back on the experience.

  • Callum says:

    There’s a special level of arrogance and selfishness required to throw a hissy fit about a foreign holiday, which you knowingly booked right in the middle of a global pandemic, being disrupted.

    • Crafty says:

      Completely agree.

      • Dickie H says:

        But your comment does not take into account the many thousands of travellers who’ll have booked a holiday to the Spanish islands well before the pandemic started, who now find themselves in the unfortunate position of having to quarantine upon return, but are ineligible to cancel and claim travel insurance because of an FCO ‘technicality’ that applies to nowhere else in the world right now. I think they have every right to be aggrieved.

        • Crafty says:

          I do agree with that too. The inconsistency on the islands needs addressing.

  • NigelthePensioner says:

    I agree with all of the above sentiments and it should be obvious that the corridors are going to be fluid. Its hardly “chaos”, it’s common sense which is largely becoming an oyxmoron.
    I would not be at all surprised to see the islands follow before long as people take flights to an island and then return from there. Its easier than taking a train to Portugal of France and flying back. What they do then is up to them but the spirit of protecting lives is very clear and it is absolutely essential that they should quarantine. However the sort of person who would be deceitful enough to return in this manner is unlikely to have the intelligence to understand the implications of their actions.

  • Qwertyknowsbest says:

    I am Enroute to catch a ferry later today to Spain. Need to make a decision if to turn back home. No problem with quarantine, but not keen to travel without decent medical cover . I have Amex platinum and Nationwide cover.

    As I read the policies on my phone (not easy) I think I would not be covered as traveling against FCO advice. Only interested in medical cover not cancellation etc.

    Any H4P insurance wisdom would be appreciated as need to decide if to turn around in the next hour.

    Thanks

    • Sandgrounder says:

      All you can do is call them, record the call and see what they say. The fact you are en route might make a difference.

    • Jon says:

      Yes you will not be covered for any medical or other issue. The policy general exclusion excludes any travel against FCO advice.
      But Nationwide will cover cancellation due to changing FCO advice (I know you are not too interested in this…)
      Generally the only travel insurance that covers against FCO advice is business travel insurance, and then you need to make a careful case and risk assessment as to why you need to go.

      • Heathrow Flyer says:

        Depends on your provider. HSBC/Aviva still cover medical despite what any FCO advice says.

        But also have you ever used an EHIC abroad? Just show your card and off you go like a local.

    • The other Kevin says:

      What’s wrong with the EHIC?

      • BS says:

        The EHIC only gives you the same right of access to state foreign local care as the locals get. It is NOT free. And definitely in Spain there are tiers of quality of care, and I’d definitely want the higher, private, one if unwell.

  • vol says:

    Two weeks’ loss of salary is minor compared to loss of life 😳

  • Sandgrounder says:

    Booking anything too far in advance was always going to be a gamble at this time, and you needed to be ready for this. I don’t see why they have to add the islands to the list but not advise against all but essential travel. The percentage of people returning on flights from those destinations who had been elsewhere on Spain would be tiny. People absolutely should quarantine though. It’s your civic duty to follow the guidelines and to encourage others to do so. If individuals start flouting the rules en masse, people will die as a direct result.

    • Crafty says:

      The inconsistency between the two lists for the Balaerics and Canaries is bizarre, it reeks of an inter-departmental spat and it does leave that group of holidaymakers in an unfortunate situation.

  • Anna says:

    We reluctantly cancelled our trip to the south of Spain (should have been flying today, as my phone keeps reminding me), precisely because of the risk of being required to quarantine on return (as would now be the case), and/or another lockdown in Spain (becoming more likely every day). However, clearly large numbers of people took the travel corridor to mean they were guaranteed a problem-free summer holiday in Europe, though this doesn’t exactly surprise me given the levels of stupidity we’ve witnessed in recent months.

    On the other hand, it does seem slightly bonkers that people have to stay at home after a trip to Spain when those like my OH and several colleagues have to travel to (public facing) work each day from the new COVID capital of the nation where we live!

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