“We couldn’t have responded more swiftly and decisively”, foreign secretary Dominic Raab proudly told Sky News on Sunday morning as the UK continued to reel from Saturday night’s shock announcement that Spain had been removed from the UK’s safe travel corridor list.
And therein lies the problem.
On Saturday night, around 6.30pm, the Department for Transport announced UK arrivals from Spain, including the country’s Balearic and Canary islands, from midnight (Saturday into Sunday) would have to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.
This government, not exactly lauded for its quick reactions at the start of this crisis, has finally started reacting with haste – at a time when more thought than ever was needed.
It is impossible to switch a country off with six hours notice – not only for the thousands of holidaymakers currently in said country or about to fly out, but for the very travel industry that enables these holidays to go ahead.
Brits currently on holiday were left wondering what exactly this news meant (helpfully, the Foreign Office’s “Form and self-isolation helpline” is only actually open from Monday to Friday), while the travel industry – from agents to operators to airlines - were left scrambling to get in touch with both travellers already in resort, and the thousands due to fly out.
Reports suggest some three million people are booked to travel from the UK to Spain in August alone. That’s an awful lot of people for a sector already fragile and exhausted from months of doling out refunds with no money coming in, to now grapple with.
Then there’s the discrepancy between the FCO advice and the DfT.