Spain today announced it will only allow fully vaccinated Britons or those who have had a negative Covid test enter the country after Angela Merkel called for an EU-wide ban on UK tourists.
Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez announced the move just two days before the Balearic Islands are due to be added to the UK’s green list.
It comes hours after a similar tightening of restrictions by Portugal which will impose a 14-day quarantine for unvaccinated Britons from today.
Merkel and Emmanuel Macron are expected to up the ante at this week’s EU Covid summit as they want a continent-wide ban on all British holidaymakers because of the Indian variant.
Spanish PM Sanchez called Britain’s Covid numbers ‘worrying’ today, citing its accumulated 14-day rate which is ‘well above 150 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.’
Critics argue the Franco-German campaign to clamp down on Britain, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, is driven by politics not data.
Henry Smith, Conservative chairman of the Future Aviation Group, told The Telegraph: ‘I think the EU probably sees trying to shut Britain out of international travel as being a competitive advantage to themselves, but I think that’s quite short sighted.
Merkel was rebuffed in her efforts to designate Britain a ‘country of concern’ last week but want a universal policy after the Indian variant became the dominant strain in Portugal following an influx of tourists and football fans.
Britain remains ahead of France and Germany in the race to vaccinate its entire adult population
Germany wants the UK to be made a ‘country of concern’ because of a rise in cases of the Delta variant, originally detected in India. The surge in the new variant has not translated in to the same numbers of hospitalisations and deaths as in previous waves
‘Good luck getting the Spanish, Greeks and Portuguese to agree to that, because I think they will rightly look at the imperatives for their economy.’
Spain opened up to British tourists at the end of May despite France and Germany unveiling tougher rules.
At the time, Sanchez extended his own personal invite to holidaymakers from the UK by announcing in English they could return with no Covid tests or vaccine requirements.
Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya appeared to confirm last Thursday the country would snub Merkel in her effort to impose centralised rules on Britons, by saying holidaymakers from the UK would continue to be let into the country without having to quarantine.
She said at a press conference with her Panamanian counterpart Erika Mouynes after their meeting in Madrid: ‘At the moment we are maintaining the measures which enable British citizens to enter our territory.’
The new Spanish rules will begin to be applied in the next 72 hours.
The Balearic Islands, which include Majorca, Ibiza and Menorca, move to green on Wednesday.
Politicians in the Balearics had been urging the Spanish government to push for more tests ‘in origin’ before UK tourists are allowed in, but nothing had been announced until today.
As it stands, every member state is free to make its own decisions on who can enter its borders, but France and Germany believe a universal policy is required.
Merkel, speaking on Thursday, said: ‘In our country, if you come from Great Britain, you have to go into quarantine – and that’s not the case in every European country, and that is what I would like to see.’
Although some UK tourist favourites like Portugal and Malta have imposed restrictions on unvaccinated arrivals from Britain, they would be loathe to handing power over to Brussels to impose a blanket ban on Britons.
Boris Johnson is set to meet Merkel at his Chequers country residence on Friday with the hope of persuading her to back down.
A No 10 spokesman said the pair will discuss ‘deepening the UK-German relationship and the global response to the coronavirus pandemic’.
The outgoing Chancellor’s position has however been described as ‘increasingly isolated’ by government sources. One told The Times: ‘A lot of countries will think it’s their own decision and not one to be decided in Berlin.’
If the move is agreed by the EU it would negate Johnson’s plan to allow double-vaccinated Britons to go to amber-list countries without quarantining on return.
The scheme could come in in August, after the Prime Minister hopes for international travel to restart on July 19.
Macron has insisted that the EU must have a ‘harmonised’ response and that new restrictions would be the basis for the introduction of a European vaccine passport, the ‘green pass’.
He and Merkel warned that northern Europe reserved the right to introduce internal EU travel restrictions blocking German, French or other European tourists from quarantine-free travel, which would damage the Mediterranean tourism industry.
Portugal, having been removed from the ‘green list’ over variant concerns, has now enforced a mandatory quarantine on unvaccinated Britons travelling to the mainland. The Portuguese island of Madeira is on the ‘green list’
Macron said: ‘We must remain vigilant on this point, on the necessary co-ordination. This co-ordination also requires that our rules harmonise on the matter of opening to [non-EU] countries. It’s the key for the European green pass.
‘We [are] in concert and perfectly aligned with Angela Merkel. Vigilance with the emergence of this new variant, and of an absolutely indispensable European co-ordination.’
Last week Merkel urged the EU to adopt Germany’s rules on travel from Britain, which require everyone to quarantine for 14 days.
The tussle over restrictions came as British Airways continued to add flights to its schedules and plans to use larger aircraft on routes serving the new green list locations to meet the demand for travel.
Another airline, Jet2.com, saw its highest volume of bookings to the Balearic Islands in nearly a year last week.
The firm has also put more than 70 additional flights on sale to Malta and Madeira for July and August.
Chief executive Steve Heapy said: ‘We knew there was a lot of pent-up demand out there but the response from our customers has been truly incredible.
‘Bookings to Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Malta and Madeira have gone through the roof, which shows just how much UK holidaymakers want to get away.’
Price comparison website TravelSupermarket said Barbados went from being its 12th most-searched-for country by package holiday customers to number two, following the Government’s announcement.
Malta rose from 17th spot to number five.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News that the changes to the green list provide ‘a little bit of relief for the travel industry and for people who wish to get away’.
He added: ‘It won’t be quite like it was in 2019 and the old days, but we are moving in a positive direction.’
A number of popular hotspots such as France, Greece, Italy and mainland Spain remain in the amber tier.
Travellers returning to the UK from those locations must self-isolate at home for 10 days, making holidays unviable for many people.
Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said the announcement was a ‘constructive step’, but ‘fails to go far enough’.
Responding to reports of Ms Merkel’s plans for a mandatory quarantine for Britons entering Europe, Mr Shapps told BBC Breakfast: ‘I think it is understandable if you are in Germany – I heard what the chancellor said yesterday – and you have yet to reach the level of vaccination that we have seen here or in Malta, that you’re going to be more concerned.
‘That may be just a question of waiting for their vaccination programme.’
Now Portugal demands unvaccinated Britons go into quarantine for 14 days
Any unvaccinated Britons heading to Portugal will now have to quarantine for two weeks amid a rise in Delta variant cases in the country.
Lisbon’s government have imposed the new restriction on people arriving from the UK as well as South Africa, Brazil, India and Nepal.
Guidance states that traveller to mainland Portugal should quarantine ‘at home or in a place indicated by health authorities’ for 14 days – unless they have proof they were double jabbed at least two weeks ago.
Portugal was the among the original list of countries added to the UK’s ‘green list’ of destinations on May 17, sparking a flurry of a tourists and visitors heading there for the Champions League final.
Lisbon’s government have imposed the new restriction on people arriving from the UK as well as South Africa, Brazil, India and Nepal amid a rise in cases of the Delta variant
It was however removed from the list in Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ first review on June 3 because of a rise in the Nepal mutation of the Indian ‘variant of concern’.
The quarantine law does not apply to the west-African island of Madeira, which has moved onto to the UK’s green list.
The quarantine law takes effect today, June 28, and will remain in place until at least July 11. It does not apply to children under 12.
The more contagious Delta variant, originally detected in India, has been spreading quickly across Portugal, accounting for 51 per cent of cases.
Although most new cases are still concentrated in the capital Lisbon, the southern Algarve region, famous for its beaches and golf courses, has the highest COVID-19 reproduction ‘R’ number of 1.34.
The jump in infections comes after tourism-dependent Portugal opened to visitors from the European Union and Britain in mid-May.
Most businesses have reopened and, as the summer season kicks off, beaches are packed.
On Thursday, Portugal imposed stricter rules, including forcing restaurants to shut earlier over the weekend in Lisbon and in the Algarve tourism magnet Albufeira, a popular destination for British visitors.