Covid-19: British government puts Balearic Islands back on orange travel list | Economy and business


Tourists arrive at Palma de Mallorca Airport on July 1.ENRIQUE CALVO (REUTERS)

The festivities lasted barely three weeks. The UK government said on Wednesday it was removing Spain’s Balearic Islands from its “green” travel list and putting it back on “orange”. The move, based on the growing incidence of coronavirus cases on the islands, has caused irritation within the tourism industry as once again it will pose travel challenges for some UK nationals seeking to join one of their favorite vacation destinations.

This time around, however, the decision is softened by the fact that UK authorities will allow those returning from Spain to avoid quarantine if they are fully vaccinated. UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on Wednesday that the new restrictions would come into effect from 4 a.m. on Monday, July 19.

The ruling affects residents of England. The UK’s delegated healthcare powers mean Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can set their own rules. However, Wales and Scotland have already announced they will follow suit, and Northern Ireland is likely to follow suit.

Around 200,000 British nationals are currently on the islands of Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera, after the Balearics were placed on the green travel list on June 30. Many of them are between 18 and 30, which means they won’t be yet. received their two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine – the requirement the UK government has put in place to avoid the 10-day quarantine on return.

“The policy put in place by the government must change,” complained Paul Charles of the travel agency PC. “It is not at all useful for the consumer if the color of a country is changed in just two weeks. This traffic light system does not work. It expressed the confusion and irritation of the industry at the reversals of the government led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which has already been seen with Portugal, which was put on the green list to be removed shortly after.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transport explained that from the start, the Balearics were placed green but were still on the watch list, meaning the status could change at any time. Since then, the UK government has said, the number of infections in the Balearic Islands has doubled – on Wednesday, the cumulative incidence per 100,000 population over the past 14 days had reached 408, compared to the national average of 469. Among other changes made by the UK, Croatia, Bulgaria, Hong Kong and Taiwan have been placed on the green list for English travelers.

Rumors had abounded that the Balearics had been removed from the green list due to reputation damage caused by a recent mass epidemic among students on year-end travel and the general rise in infections. However, the expected impact will likely be limited, according to the Spanish tourism sector, given that British travelers who have received both Covid-19 vaccines will be able to avoid the 10-day quarantine on their return, as will minors. This means that the majority of the population will be able to take vacations throughout Spain without major restrictions. “It’s as if [Spain] were on the green list because [the rules] does not apply to minors and 66% of adults [in the UK] are now fully vaccinated, “said British Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliot on Monday.

The decision, however, has a negative effect on the image of the Balearics and Spain as a safe destination. France and Germany have also recently advised against travel to Spain given the rise in infections, spurred by the spread of the more contagious delta variant. According to the Exceltur travel association, this had no effect on cancellations, but it slowed vacation sales by 20%.

The UK, meanwhile, is giving the majority of its population a break by allowing fully vaccinated people to travel to certain countries without needing quarantine on their return. It’s a lifeline for Spain’s key tourism industry, which remains cautious as it has yet to experience the much-hoped-for surge in bookings now that the vaccination campaign is progressing across Europe. This caution is also due to the worsening situation in both Spain and the UK, with coronavirus infections rising sharply again. If the situation continues to go in the wrong direction, the restrictions imposed in recent months will return once again – a scenario that no one wants to think about just yet.

english version by Simon Hunter.