Coronavirus, Europe: Frustrated UK tourists in Spain will now be forced to quarantine on return home

Lying next to a pool on the Costa del Sol, NHS worker Peter Anderson was finally enjoying a break with his family after months of stress and uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But a relaxing Saturday turned into a scramble to try to book flights, after the Government announced it was imposing a 14-day quarantine for anyone returning from Spain.

Like many British tourists, the Andersons were unable to beat the deadline to return home as the Department for Transport gave just five hours' notice of the change in the rules on Saturday. The decision has left tourists frustrated and angry, with those already abroad fearing they could lose their jobs or pay, and many who were due to travel potentially losing thousands on flights and accommodation.

Many were last night scrambling to cut their holiday short so that they could use some of their remaining time off to fulfil quarantine requirements.

There are around 1.5 million British tourists either in Spain or due to travel there in the coming weeks.

Mr Anderson, 49, from Windermere, Cumbria, said that he believed he was exempt from quarantine as he was a key worker, but would have to take time off work to look after his six-year-old son, Thomas, as his wife Gaynor had only just returned from furlough.

As she boarded a flight from Malaga to Liverpool after their break in Calahonda, near Marbella, Mrs Anderson, 47, said: "We wouldn't have come to Spain if we'd known we were going to have to self-isolate when we got back."

There were queues at airports across the country as panicked tourists attempted to return home.

Dr Andras Szigeti, from Chelmsford, Essex, found out three minutes after touching down in Malaga on Saturday that he and his partner would have to quarantine on their return and they made the decision to turn back.


"Since I am a private doctor and I am the main breadwinner in the family, I cannot allow myself to lose half of my monthly salary," said Dr Szigeti, who said he would now be using "at least part of my holiday as quarantine".

Many of those who cut their holidays short, or were about to travel, were also confused about whether they would be able to get any money back.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said that many tourists would be "deeply angry" that the Government did not make the decision 48 hours earlier, when a spike in coronavirus cases in Spain became clear. He said those who had booked a package holiday were likely to be protected, but with flights still running and hotels open, people who had booked separately were "unlikely to get a refund".

A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers said that some annual policies taken out before March may allow people who could not travel to get their money back, but most taken out after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic would not cover the cost if the traveller chose to cancel.

Those already in the country will be covered by their insurance, but anyone who ignores the Foreign Office's warning against all but essential travel to mainland Spain is likely to invalidate their policy.

Tourists who do have to quarantine and cannot work from home will be reliant on the goodwill of their employers to give them the time off and they do not qualify for statutory sick pay. Those who fail to self-isolate could face a 1,000 pound fine and even prosecution.

Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, said no worker following quarantine guidance should be penalised by employers. But the Department for Business was forced to admit that there was no law protecting employers, or specific Government help for those who lose out because of quarantine.

Danielle Parsons, an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said that employees who had been caught out were in "very weak" position as there was no legal requirement on bosses to give them the time off or pay them.

"It could be the case that if you are able to explain the situation to your employer, you could take a period of annual leave or agree unpaid leave to cover the quarantine period," Ms Parsons said. "The reality is that this might lead to a dispute and you would only be entitled to make a claim for unfair dismissal if you had been with your employer for more than two years."

Those who have income protection insurance will be unable to claim, as it does not normally kick in until the person has been off work for a number of weeks, experts said.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said the Government's sudden decision to take Spain off the safe list had left holidaymakers "confused" and "they don't know whether their employers will allow them to take two weeks' quarantine".

Among those returning to the UK was Maria Belen, a 23-year-old nursery worker who had been visiting family in Granada. "I'm worried my job won't pay me," she said.

Adam Goodman, his wife and their three children returned from Majorca yesterday and described the decision as "disgraceful".

"They encouraged people to go on holiday three weeks ago when we booked it, and if they encourage people to go on holiday, they should at least give people a fair warning if they're going to change the situation," he said.

Mr Raab said the Government would not apologise for failing to give notice as "the data we got was on the Friday, it showed a big jump right across mainland Spain". He said that he was "not going to tell people what they should and shouldn't do", but that he was "going to be staying at home this summer".

The Telegraph, London

See also: The city that wants nothing to do with Europe's tourism revival

See also: Emirates to offer free COVID-19 cover to all passengers