British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended the decision to effectively ban travel to Spain following a rise in coronavirus cases in part of that country, calling it the government’s “duty” to protect the U.K. as signs of a second wave of coronavirus begin to bubble up in Europe.
The U.K. government over the weekend recommended against all but essential travel to Spain. Travelers arriving in Britain from that country are subject to a 14-day quarantine.
“Let’s be absolutely clear about what’s happening in Europe, amongst some of our European friends, I’m afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic,” Johnson said Tuesday. “I’m afraid if we do see signs of a second wave in other countries, it is really our job, our duty, to act swiftly and decisively.”
The U.K. has the highest official coronavirus death toll in Europe with more than 45,000 deaths. One of the reasons cited for that is that many travelers brought the virus back during the February school break after skiing trips in France, Italy and Spain.
Holiday companies TUI UK and Jet2 have already suspended flights to Spain, which is traditionally the most popular summer destination for British vacationers.
Madrid, along with Catalonia, is one of Spain’s worst-hit regions. It has recorded more than 74,000 cases, with almost 1,900 new infections in the past two weeks.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called Britain’s new recommendation “a mistake,” saying that the upsurge in new COVID-19 cases is only focused in the regions of Catalonia and Aragon and is much less severe than the number of cases reported in the U.K. itself.
Spain is still in talks with the British government, “trying to find a solution which meets epidemiological criteria,” Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Ayalatold a press conference in Athens during an official visit to Greece on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Madrid regional government has tightened restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19, requiring face masks in all public areas, limiting private gatherings to no more than 10 people, and forcing nightlife venues to close their doors at 1 a.m. — much earlier than usual in Spanish summertime.
Britain’s move comes as other European countries have made moves of varying severity on travel to and from Spain.
Germany’s foreign ministry advised against “nonessential tourist travel” to Catalonia, its western neighbor, Aragón, and Navarra in northern Spain. It cites a rise in infection figures and “local closures.” Spain is not on Germany’s list of high-risk countries and travelers are not subject to quarantine.
Norway ordered a 10-day quarantine for people returning from the entire Iberian Peninsula, and France urged its citizens not to visit Catalonia.
Johnson’s remarks on Spain come a day after releasing a video on his official Twitter account, saying he was “way overweight” when he was admitted to intensive care earlier this year after testing positive with COVID-19.
“I’ve always wanted to lose weight for ages and ages,” he said in the clip posted Monday. “I think many people, I struggle with my weight.”
He said he was started going on a run with his dog, Dilyn, and has lost about 14 pounds since his recovery. The video was released alongside the launch of the U.K. government’s strategy to lower obesity rates in the country.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.