'Bleak' data could see Spain join UK's 'amber plus' list

One in 35 people returning from Spain are testing positive for Covid-19, data shows

Holidaymakers walk along the Levante beach in Benidorm, Spain, where British tourists could face tougher restrictions. Reuters
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Britain could toughen its travel restrictions on Spain because one in 35 people returning from the country are testing positive for Covid-19.

Rules on travelling to Spain, a popular destination for British holidaymakers, were relaxed for vaccinated travellers on July 19.

But there are concerns it could be added to an “amber plus” list, currently comprising France, which forces even vaccinated people to enter quarantine.

Latest figures from England’s National Health Service show that out of 71,418 people returning from Spain in July, 2,065 tested positive for Covid-19.

The 2.9 per cent rate of positivity was higher than for other popular holiday destinations, such as France, Portugal and Greece.

“I cannot see Spain being put on red, but realistically amber plus is likely,” said data analyst Tim White. “From the data, my analysis is bleak”.

He described the decision on Spain’s status, expected in the coming week, as a “huge call” for UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Spain and its popular tourist islands are currently on the "amber list", which means vaccinated travellers do not need to enter quarantine when they return to England.

France was moved to the “amber plus” list on July 19 because of concerns over the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.

This led to controversy after critics said the variant was most prevalent in a French overseas territory thousands of kilometres from mainland France.

Paul Charles, head of travel consultancy the PC Agency, said ministers might want to move away from the “amber plus” list after criticism of the tier.

“I think it would be a very brazen government that would tell a million British tourists in Spain at the moment, and the Balearics, that they would have to quarantine on their way back,” he said.

“It would be a really tough decision. I can’t believe they’re going to do that.”

A British Airways plane takes off from Heathrow Airport in London as the travel industry faces continued disruption due to the pandemic. Reuters

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab this week declined to rule out Spain being moved to the “amber plus” list.

Asked whether people should book holidays to Spain, he told Sky News: “You’ll know next week what the latest assessment is.”

“We can’t give cast-iron guarantees about what the next review system will decide. If we did, it wouldn’t be a very meaningful review system,” he said.

Mr Charles predicted that the "green list" could be expanded to include countries such as Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Poland and Romania.

People returning from "green-list" countries do not need to enter quarantine regardless of their vaccination status, but must take two tests.

Britain this week opened its doors to visitors from the EU and US who are vaccinated with a shot approved by European or US regulators.

The move was welcomed by airline group IAG, the owner of British Airways, which said it was an important step in re-opening transatlantic travel.

IAG announced on Friday that passenger numbers were still only a fifth of where they were before the pandemic.

The limited number of countries on Britain’s "green list" has “severely limited the recovery” expected when restrictions were eased, it said.

Updated: July 31, 2021, 4:49 PM