In Depth

Is Spain set to join Portugal in exclusion from UK’s ‘quarantine-free holiday’ list?

Spike in Covid cases reported by Madrid could see the popular tourist destination declared unsafe for Britons

UK holidaymakers heading to Spain for a post-lockdown break may be forced to quarantine for two weeks on their return, following a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in the Mediterranean nation.

Spain is currently on the 59-strong list of countries that Britons can visit without having to self-isolate when they get home.

But with more than 4,500 new Covid infections reported in Spain last weekend alone, Whitehall sources say that could be about to change, according to The Sun.

What’s happening Spain?

The number of coronavirus cases in Spain has tripled in the last three weeks, latest figures show.

The Spanish health authorities say that around half of all the new outbreaks can be directly traced back to gatherings of families or to nightclubs and bars, The Telegraph reports.

And new data from the Carlos III Health Institute in Madrid shows that most of the new infections are among people aged between 15 and 29, accounting for two in every ten cases, says Spanish newspaper El Pais

Of a total of 25,600 cases analysed by researchers, 40% of the infected patients were under the age of 40, compared with 16.7% on 1 April. 

Spain had endured one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns, but since the restrictions were lifted in late June, many Spaniards have sought to make up for lost time by flocking back to public spaces.

The resurgence of social events has seen the number of Covid infections climb from just eight per 100,000 people at the end of June to 27 cases per 100,000 now, according to Health Ministry data.

“Where measures have been relaxed is where these clusters appear,” Health Minister Salvador Illa said. “We are talking about gatherings of extended family and spaces associated with nightlife.”

How does Spain compare to the UK?

The UK’s rolling average of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths is falling, as the Public Health England graph below shows.

Boris Johnson said last week that he hoped for a “significant return to normality” by Christmas.

But scientists say the prime minister is being overly optimist, reports New Scientist.

Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), yesterday told MPs: “This infection is not going away, it’s now a human endemic infection.” 

Even if we produce a successful vaccine or very good treatments, “humanity will still be living with this virus for very many, many years… decades to come”, he added. 

How does Spain compare with the rest of Europe?

More than 157,000 new coronavirus cases and 4,000 related deaths have been reported across Europe in the last seven days, according to the World Health Organization.

And the 14-day incidence rate is climbing in a number of the continent’s countries including Kyrgyzstan (335% as of Wednesday afternoon); Israel (111%); Montenegro (91%); Latvia (157%); and Estonia (108%).

Spain’s 14-day incidence, meanwhile, is 155%.

Other countries currently on the UK’s safe-to-visit list that have also reported a rising 14-day incident of infections include Cyprus (133%), Luxembourg (139%) and Lithuania (156%).  

Portugal, which was left off the original safe list, currently has a two-week rate of -4%.

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