After imposing a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers arriving from Spain, Britain is now closely monitoring the rise in the number of coronavirus cases in other European destinations amid the height of the summer vacation season.
Addressing the possibility of Germany and France being next in line to face compulsory quarantines, Junior Health Minister Helen Whately told Sky News, "We have to keep the situation under review and I think that is what the public would expect us to do."
Indication of Second Wave of Economic Unrest
The imposition of a British quarantine on Spain is one of the starkest indications to date that Europe could face a second wave of economic turmoil as governments scramble to head off a rise in cases from the Mediterranean to the North Sea.
Shares in airlines and travel companies - already on their knees due to coronavirus lockdowns - tumbled while Spain pleaded for Britain to exclude the Balearic and Canary islands from the quarantine. The British decision leaked ahead of an official announcement on Saturday, upset the plans of hundreds of thousands of British tourists and raised the specter of limits on more countries.
"If we see rates going up in a country where at the moment there is no need to quarantine if we see the rates going up, we would have to take action because we cannot take the risk of coronavirus being spread again across the UK," said Whately.
Effect of Travel Restrictions on Tourism
In Europe, Russia has reported 40,762 new cases in the past week, Spain has reported 12,166, France 5,858, the United Kingdom 4,662 and Germany 3,932, according to Johns Hopkins University.
As the coronavirus sows yet more economic chaos, the second wave of travel restrictions could destroy swathes of European tourism businesses. Germany, France and the United Kingdom are by far the biggest European tourism spenders while there are 9,835 flights scheduled to leave the UK for Spain between July 26 and August 31.
Airline and travel shares tumbled: EasyJet fell as much as 14 percent, the biggest one-day intraday percentage fall since March when the rapid spread of COVID-19 forced flying to a near standstill. British Airways' owner, IAG, fell 8 percent and the TUI travel company fell 11 percent. Ryanair Group Chief Executive Michael O'Leary said the British quarantine was "a badly managed overreaction". Ryanair is not planning to reduce flying capacity to Spain.
"I have no doubt that we will see other localized outbreaks and we need to be flexible enough to deal with them as they arise over the next number of weeks and months," Chief Financial Officer Neil Sorahan told Reuters in an interview following the publication of quarterly financial results.
Watching Islands As Well?
Spain, long a favorite of British sunseekers, said it was safe for tourists and was trying to convince London that it should exclude the Balearic and Canary islands from the quarantine measure.
"For some of the islands, the rates are indeed going up, also there is some movement of travel between the islands and the mainland, so we had to do a clear policy that would best protect the United Kingdom," Whately told the BBC.
TUI UK, part of the TUI holiday company, said it would cancel all holidays to mainland Spain up to August 9, while maintaining flights to the Balearic and Canary islands. "What we'd really like - and I think we are going to need this going forward as the world evolves - is a nuanced policy," TUI managing director Andrew Flintham told the BBC.
(With inputs from agencies)