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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

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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  • Pedant says:

    2nd paragraph, Spanish?

    • Julian says:

      Yes I spotted that too but I wasn’t pedantic enough to mention it until you did……..

      • Alex Sm says:

        Guys – it was mentioned in the comments above at least three times already! Relax…

  • Mike says:

    The insurance cover part of the article would only cover those bookings made before 17/18th March 2020. Most mainline travel insurance companies, AXA et a,l removed cover for any coronavirus related travel disruption, including FCO guidance, for bookings made after that date.

    • Julian says:

      There are policies that do provide cover against COVID-19 infection but inevitably they cost considerably more than those that do not.

      I still think most of the thinking here is political and about being seen to do something. Nobody has ever suggested the government should impose huge restrictions on those who engage in frequent and promiscuous sexual activity despite the much greater risks to public health from those who do so and the increasingly large number of nasty, untreatable and/or life long sexual activity induced infections that are out there.

      • Colin says:

        People who knowingly infect others with HIV/AIDS have been sent to prison.

        Pretty poor analogy really.

        • Lady London says:

          He’s spot on. Like smokers or fat people being charged more to use the NHS. I think lots of things I pay for, are going to benefit only other people and it’s not fair on me to have to pay so much when it doesnt benefit me. But society works so risks and costs are averaged snd shared. Some you win, some you lose.

  • Andrew says:

    And Hong Kong have extended their foreign visitor ban until end of 2020. Although you can transit in HK now as long as under 24 hours transit time and on one ticket.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Andrew, Do you have a source for that you could share. Have a few HKG overnights and a LOT of hkg transits booked through the end of the year…

      • Harry T says:

        Loyalty Lobby has an article on it, as does Turning Left For Less (@Rob hope it’s okay to refer to other blogs, please delete if it’s not).

  • Gromit 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.”

    This was surely never the case anyway with a virus that can spread so quickly.

    The only surprise is that this has happened so soon after the inception of the travel corridors fudge.

    • Julian says:

      And also that it has happened with about the most popular destination of all for family summer holidays just at the time when schools in the South East would originally have been out summer and so bookings would have been at their absolute peak.

      I would expect a total ban on entry by UK residents and/or passport holders in to Spain (or at least the imposing of 14 day quarantine restrictions) and/or the quarantining of their own citizens returning home from the UK very shortly in direct retaliation.

      • Colin says:

        Oh well. They’re just going to have to get over it aren’t they? They took a gamble and the result wasn’t favourable. Tough ****.

        • Julian says:

          So you aren’t going and feel smug that it doesn’t affect you.

          The point is it is the time when lots of people were booked to go away so will do maximum damage including to the Spanish economy. And don’t think that they won’t retaliate big time in response in terms of Brits even being admitted over there.

          And almost certainly the restrictions aren’t necessary or if they are then it just have been done on an air corridor by air corridor basis as 97% of people going to Spain don’t travel more than 150km from their arrival airport.

          It is also especially logical that there is no advice against travelling to the Balerics or Canaries but that the same 14 day quarantine rule still applies on return to the UK. If one rule doesn’t apply to those destinations in Spain then nor should the other one……………

          • Colin says:

            “ So you aren’t going and feel smug that it doesn’t affect you.”

            Nope I don’t feel smug but yes I don’t really care as it doesn’t affect me. If it did, I’d grow a pair and accept that **** happens rather than be a mentally weak crybaby

          • Julian says:

            I’m surprised there are so many uncouth working class types using vulgar Chav like language hanging out on this website. I thought HeadForPoints was only for thinking intelligent people. But it seems I was mistaken.

            Also I bet your tackle isn’t actually that large either in any case.

          • Colin says:

            “ Also I bet your tackle isn’t actually that large either in any case.”


            Almost as funny as your “claustrophobia” post 😂

            I wonder what would have happened if someone said they couldn’t fight in the world wars because of a made up “condition”.

          • Julian says:

            If they set it out sensibly that they were a “conscientious objector” they were allowed to driver ambulances to pick up men on the fighting front rather than having to fight themselves. Of course if they just said they were afraid of fighting then that usually didn’t work and some ended up being shot for cowardice for refusing to go over the top on the day of the battle.

    • RWJ says:

      Indeed. I do not think going on foreign holidays at the moment with the virus still very much in circulation is a good idea for reasons of both public health and personal inconvenience should something like this happen. Did people seriously think it was all just going to go away with no second waves or local epidemics?

      I would have been surprised had something like this not happened. Particularly in Spain which seems to have been one of the worst affected countries in mainland Europe.

      • Julian says:

        I should stay entirely in your safe little home cocoon and not leave there either just in case.

        Of course you might well have a heart attack or stroke from sitting at home all day long with no sunlight falling on your skin.

        This disease is not the Black Death but some of you and now the UK government seem determined to behave as though it is………

        In fact thinking about it further its totally amazing there were ever any explorers or railways laid or airplanes allowed to travel if everyone thought the same over protective way as you clearly do.l

        • Cat says:

          I imagine that the Aztecs and the Incas would really rather Cortés and Pizarro had not explored the New World, bringing smallpox with them, Julian.
          They didn’t do too well out of that.
          Mentioning explorers is an odd choice of example to back up your point!

        • Crafty says:

          Julian, what is it that makes you think “working class” people are unintelligent?

          Astonishing comment.

    • Zoe says:

      I think that if you travel anywhere outside of the UK there is a chance that you get ‘fined ‘ 14 days of house arrest on your return. A weekend away or a 3 week holiday could have the same result. I know it’s not really house arrest but done properly (as I plan to) it might as well be.
      Now trying to enjoy the rest of my holiday without getting cross.

      • Colin says:

        It’s only two weeks. You’ll be fine if you’ve got the internet

        • Zoe says:

          Having read some of your particularly empathetic replies above Colin I think I’d pick 14 days quarantine over 14 minutes in your company. I hope you have found a career where a lack of empathy is seen as an advantage.

      • John says:

        Just go on holiday again! At least for England you can leave the house if you travel directly to the airport and out of the UK. That’s my plan 🙂

  • StillintheSun says:

    A great and timely article Rob. I was due to return from Spain on Wednesday but I am fortunate to be able to remain where I am and avoid coming back to the UK. I for one appreciate the honest journalism being provided regarding enforcement of the quarantine regulations. Long may it continue. For all the virtue signallers out there; how many of you can honestly say you have never driven whilst over the limit? A far more dangerous activity than returning from most of Spain without quarantine. I suspect there are very few stone throwers who don’t live in glass houses….

    • ChrisBCN says:

      Driven whilst over the limit? No-one but some preciously over-entitled people. Don’t make it out to be a regular or acceptable thing – even if it is to you.

      • RWJ says:


      • StillintheSun says:

        I have never driven having had even one alcoholic drink. But then I’ve never owned a car and barely driven one so it is easy for me to be pious about it should I choose to be. The fact is what is and is not considered acceptable to a person is highly subjective and to an extent driven by the personal “cost” to them.

        • Julian says:

          Its also driven by personality type, which is only partly environmental but also very heavily inherited. Some people are cautious and rule following types on everything and others like making their own judgements based on the actual evidence and conditions.

          Re the people who never have a single drink and drive I just think they are absolutists who see everything in black and white terms and can’t seem to work out simple statistical equations on the number of units per hour their body eliminates.

          I have an alcohol test unit in my car glove box and it shows that if I have a couple of glasses of wine with my meal between 8pm and 9.30pm with a meal there is effectively no alcohol left in my bloodstream by 11,30pm.

          • Optimus Prime says:

            “ if I have a couple of glasses of wine with my meal between 8pm and 9.30pm with a meal there is effectively no alcohol left in my bloodstream by 11,30pm.”

            So you didn’t drive while over the limit, did you?

        • Paul74 says:

          Spot on.

      • Lost+confused says:

        While I agree drink driving is and should be morally unacceptable, I’m sure a large percentage of regularly driving people (ie owning a car and not living in big cities) who also drink on occasion, have at some time driven whilst over the legal limit, for example the following morning (or even evening) after a wedding or party.

        Back on topic, I’d be a bit miffed if I’d travelled to the islands of Spain that are still low risk, to find I was now being forced into self isolation on return with less that 24 hours notice to change my plans. I say this as someone who can (and still is) working from home.

        Further, the whole thing looks like another act of (bio)security theatre as my family can return home from a high risk country and need to isolate, while I continue to go to work, shops and pubs…

        They used to say that quick laws make bad laws, but appears that quick is optional in that equation

        • Lady London says:

          Plus thst stupid list of who is exempt frpm quarantine. It’s insulting to the rest of us. Since when did ypur job make you immune yo a disease?

    • Paul74 says:

      Good point.

  • Nick Burch says:

    There are lots of people who, through the kind of work or travel they do, legitimately skip the quarantine on their return by claiming one of the many exemptions outlined in the legislation.

    The guidance for the exemptions often suggests you get a letter from your employer or client to confirm you meet the (often vague) requirements for the exemption. So, you would probably need to tell your boss that you believe you qualify, and let them know you’ve been to eg Spain. If your boss will want to let you back into work for the first two weeks, quarantine or not, is a different question!

    For families, your kids won’t qualify though, so at least one member of a family is going to have to stay off work for a fortnight to look after them, no matter what exemptions the parents have, so it’s not a carte-blanche.. But could work for many childless readers with sympathetic bosses and a HR department that gives an OK based on a risk assessment

  • Robert W. 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.”””
    This comment is not true. The Government made it very clear when the air corridors were put in place that they could apply quarantine at short notice if the number of cases in a country spiked suddenly. So “you can no longer” is incorrect.
    Travel after the air corridors has always been at your own risk.

    • memesweeper says:

      Yes, but we now know short notice = 2 hours. That’s going to kill holiday plans for many, many people and materially hurt the wider travel industry.

      I’m of the view we shouldn’t have allowed/encouraged international leisure travel anywhere until all sectors of the UK economy we reopened to at least some extent. Allowing people on a fully booked out aircraft but not allowing them to sit in an open air football stadium or attend a nightclub isn’t sensible IMO.

      But what’s done is done and I’m looking to travel to Greece or somewhere equally nice for a few weeks working from ‘home’.

  • Manuel says:

    Further evidence of the chaos at the heart of this woeful government.
    Don’t tell me the transport secretary was not aware of this impending decision when he himself left for Spain on Saturday morning!!
    It is also disproportionate as the Islands are not anywhere nearly as badly affected as Northern Spain in much the way as Scotland is safer than England.
    I am not going to Spain but elsewhere but I have no intention of complying with this rule on my return if it is imposed while I am away. I intend to order a test before I leave and complete it when I get back. After all if the PMs advisor can ignore the rules without consequences why can’t the rest of us.

    • RWJ says:

      Please don’t ignore quarantine rules – I realise they may seem arbitrary but no good will come of wilfully flouting them.

      • Julian says:

        I suppose someone like you will be saying the same about the ridiculous face knappy rules that will now blight our day to day lives for god only knows how long.

        Following the rules without question is what we are taught to do by parents and at school but if we don’t question even bad rules then more and more bad rules will be imposed by authoritarian and dictatorial governments. Taking Spain for instance look what happened back in the days of General Franco………..

        • happeemonkee says:

          “Face Nappies” ??

          Get a life.

        • Crafty says:

          That’s right Julian, if we put masks on for the common good, General Franco will rise inexorably to power.

      • Lady London says:

        same for masks. even if you know better, do it anyway.

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