Spain has been removed from the UK’s safe travel corridor list, just over three weeks after quarantine-free travel between the two countries resumed.
UK arrivals from Spain, including the country’s Balearic and Canary islands, will from midnight (Saturday into Sunday) have to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return, the Department for Transport (DfT) confirmed on Saturday evening (25 July).
The new rules apply to any holidaymakers already in Spain, although they can stay for the remainder of their planned travel.
Authorities in the UK’s devolved administrations – Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – have all taken the same decision.
The Foreign Office is also once again advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain, although both the Balearics and the Canaries are excluded from the new FCO advice.
The DfT said the decision to revoke Spain’s quarantine exemption followed "a significant change" over the past week in both "the level and pace of change" in confirmed cases in the country.
Anyone already in Spain should follow any outstanding or new local rules, return home as planned, and continue to check the FCO’s travel advice for any further information.
"The Joint Biosecurity Centre, together with Public Health England, have updated their coronavirus assessments of Spain based on the latest data," said a government spokesperson.
"As a result, Spain has been removed from the lists of countries from which passengers arriving in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are exempted from the need to self-isolate."
They added: "Protecting public health is our absolute priority, and we have taken this decision to limit any potential spread to the UK.
"We’ve always been clear that we would act immediately to remove a country where necessary. Both our list of quarantine exemptions and the FCO travel advice are being updated to reflect these latest risk assessments."
Clarifying the discrepancy between the decisions by the DfT and FCO, the government added in a statement: "The FCO is advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain.
"This does not cover the Canary Islands or the Balearic Islands because travel advice is based on the risk to the individual traveller and Covid-19 infection rates are lower there than mainland Spain.
"People will still need to self-isolate when returning from anywhere in Spain, as well as the Canary and Balearic islands, because self-isolation arrangements are put in place on the basis of risk to the UK as a whole."
Employers have been urged to show "understanding" of those returning from Spain, who now will need to self-isolate.
Spain, the UK’s most popular holiday destination, was originally included on England’s 3 July quarantine exemption list – and was added to Scotland’s list this week.
Spain has warned a second wave could be imminent, with cities – including Madrid and Barcelona – reporting significant rises in cases.
Catalonia’s government has said all nightclubs and late-night bars in the region are to close for the next two weeks due to the spike in infections.
The Spanish health ministry reported more than 900 new cases of the virus on Friday (24 July).