Dhaka: Spain's lucrative and vital tourism sector receives yet another sharp blow after the British government decided to pull Spain from the list of safe countries and require returning holidaymakers to self-isolate for a fortnight.
The country, which relies on tourism for 12 per cent of its GDP, was already expecting a bleak post-COVID summer.
But the UK decision – combined with the French government’s advice against travelling to Catalonia, and Norway’s reimposition of a 10-day quarantine requirement for people arriving from Spain – is likely to torpedo Spain’s faltering tourist recovery.
Belgium has also banned non-essential travel to the north-eastern areas of Huesca and Lleida, and recommended against travel to a number of other Spanish areas.
More than 18 million Britons visited Spain last year, accounting for one fifth of all foreign visitors.
The Catalan hoteliers’ association, meanwhile, said 20 per cent of reservations have been lost since the French announcement on July 24. Anger and frustration within the tourist sector – not to mention the Spanish government – is likely to be exacerbated as the UK’s move comes days after the Scottish government announced that border health measures requiring people to quarantine for 14 days on arrival into Scotland were to be lifted for those arriving from Spain, only to reverse the decision on July 24.
The measure will also cause bafflement in a country that went into one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns nine days before the UK, and where the wearing of face masks in public places has been compulsory since May 21.
But despite the success of the state of emergency, which ended on June 21, Spain has seen a resurgence of new infections over recent weeks.
Spanish health authorities said this week that they were dealing with 283 active outbreaks, many of them in the northeastern regions of Catalonia and Aragón.
On July 23, the government of the south-eastern region of Murcia ordered the 32,000 inhabitants of Totana back into the second phase of lockdown reduction after 55 cases were traced to a bar in the town.
Two days later, the Catalan government ordered all nightclubs to close for a fortnight and placed a midnight curfew on bars in and around Barcelona and Lleida, both of which have seen a rise in new cases.
While health authorities have acknowledged that a second wave may have hit, they insist all outbreaks are being swiftly detected and isolated.