The UK on Tuesday defended its decision to quarantine all travelers arriving from Spain due to coronavirus spread concerns after it was openly criticized by the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

The British government’s response came on the same day that German authorities also issued a travel warning against parts of Spain.

The Spanish prime minister called the Britain’s move to impose a 14-day quarantine on all those entering Britain from Spain – abruptly introduced by London on Saturday night – as “unbalanced” and insisted parts of his country were safer than the UK, AFP reported.

Britain imposed the measure, which has also been heavily criticized within the country, following a surge of cases in Spain in recent days.

Sanchez defended Spanish tourist hotspots, including the Balearic and Canary islands, Andalucia and the Valencia region, saying they had “a cumulative incidence of the virus that is lower than that currently in the United Kingdom”.

“That is to say, in epidemiological terms, it might even be safer at these destinations than in the United Kingdom,” Sanchez told the Telecinco channel in an interview late Monday.

He added that Madrid was in talks with London “to try to convince them to reconsider the measure, which in our opinion is unbalanced”.

But Britain immediately rejected the Spanish leader’s claims and said it would keep the latest quarantine rules in place.

Simon Clarke, local government minister, said there had been a 75-percent increase in reported cases at the end of last week.

“We respectfully disagree with the Spanish government’s position on this,” he told the BBC on Tuesday.

“We obviously continue to work closely with them and we wish them every success in managing this outbreak, but we’ve seen a very sharp increase in cases in Spain.”

He added there were no plans to change the policy.

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party said Boris Johnson’s government had “badly handled” the decision.

It called for help for those British tourists hurriedly returning to the UK over fears that the new rules could impact on their jobs.

London had initially said people could still travel to the Canaries and Balearics, but later extended the quarantine to these island groups.

The move is potentially perilous for the Spanish tourist industry, which received 18 million visitors from the UK last year, the largest of any national group.

Spain’s tourist industry accounts for 12 percent of gross domestic product and 13 percent of employment.

Norway has imposed similar conditions to the UK and the French Prime Minister Jean Castex has “strongly recommended” that people avoid going to northeastern Spain, the worst-hit area.

Britain and Spain are among the European countries worst hit by the pandemic.

Official figures show there have been almost 46,000 deaths and 300,000 people infected in the UK, though the actual numbers may be far higher.

In Spain, more than 28,400 lives have been lost and more than 272,000 people infected.

‘Great concern’

Germany’s disease control agency voiced “great concern” Tuesday over rising virus numbers in the country as authorities issued a travel warning against parts of Spain.

“We must prevent that the virus once again spreads rapidly and uncontrollably,” Robert Koch Institute (RKI) head, Lothar Wieler, told reporters.

“The latest developments in the number of COVID-19 cases are of great concern to me and all of us at the RKI,” he said.

Germany has fared better than many of its neighbors in suppressing the virus, but Wieler urged citizens not to squander the progress following a spike numbers in recent weeks.

“It’s in our hands how the pandemic evolves in Germany,” Wieler said, calling on Germans to stick with prevention measures such as washing hands and keeping a safe distance.

Face masks should be worn not only indoors, but also outdoors, if the recommended 1.5-metre (5-foot) distancing cannot be maintained, he said, in a subtle update of the prior advice.

Holidaymakers returning from abroad have stoked particular concern.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry updated its travel advisory on Tuesday, recommending against travel to three regions in northern Spain grappling with renewed outbreaks.

“Non essential, tourist travel to the autonomous communities of Aragon, Catalonia and Navarra are currently discouraged due to renewed high levels of infections and local lockdowns,” a statement said.

The RKI chief said Germans bringing the virus back from their summer holidays was one reason for the surge in cases, but he also pointed to outbreaks happening at workplaces and open-air parties.

Germany has so far recorded a total of 206,242 coronavirus cases and 9,122 deaths.

Berlin has taken great pride in keeping the fatality numbers low, crediting its world-class health system and widespread early testing for the success.

Over the last seven days, Germany has registered an average of 557 new cases a day, up from around 350 in early June.

“We don’t know yet if this is the beginning of a second wave but of course it could be,” Wieler said.

“But I am optimistic that if we follow the hygiene rules we can prevent it, it’s up to us.”


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