Tourists welcome in Spain ‘as soon as possible’, with lockdown ‘lifted in June’
By Ryan Hooper, PA
Holidaymakers will be welcomed back to Spain “as soon as possible”, but only when safe to do so, the country’s foreign minister has said.
Spain, like the UK, was among the European countries worst affected by the coronavirus outbreak, and introduced lockdown measures on March 14, more than a week ahead of the UK.
It has now begun lifting those restrictions in various regions, with plans to end lockdown next month.
Foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said cities with high concentrations of Covid-19 infection – such as Madrid and Barcelona – remain under stricter rules than more rural areas, but that the country will reopen to visitors at the earliest possible opportunity.
However, she was unable to say whether Spain could welcome UK tourists by the summer.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are hoping to get tourists back as soon as possible but we are also conscious that, when we welcome them, we want to provide the safest destination in Europe.
“We want to make sure when they come they can continue to experience the amazing stay in Spain, whether they love sports or culture or cuisine or simply like our weather.
“But we want to make sure that at this moment, when every country is suffering from this pandemic, we can provide them with a safe and healthy experience – that’s top of our priorities right now.”
Lockdown measures in Spain have reflected its high numbers of casualties, with children confined indoors for six weeks between March and the end of April.
Ms Gonzalez said: “We’ve had one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe, but hope to end lockdown by the end of June.
“We are putting health first, making sure when we open the country first to Spaniards and then to tourists, everybody will be safe.”
And she said she hoped two-week quarantines imposed on travellers coming into the country would be relaxed in favour of less restrictive measures in time to welcome tourists.
Quarantine rules for British citizens and foreign nationals arriving in the UK are currently being considered by Boris Johnson’s Government.
Ms Gonzalez said: “Quarantine is necessary at the moment to prevent importation of Covid cases but this is a temporary measure.
“The moment we feel that the virus is under control, we will replace quarantine with other measures at the border.”
Foreign travel has been severely affected by international restrictions, with airline companies grounding planes and making drastic cuts to their routes.
Ryanair, one of the main carriers to Spain from the UK, last week said it planned to restore 40% of its whole flight programme from July, although Health Secretary Matt Hancock also warned that foreign holidays for UK residents are unlikely this summer.
There have been signs of optimism from Europe, however, with countries including Italy and Greece signalling their intention to welcome UK travellers early next month.