Exclusive: Spain holidaymakers set to escape quarantine as beta variant cases disappear

·4 min read
People enjoy the sunshine at Torremolinos, near Malaga - David Benito/Getty Images Europe
People enjoy the sunshine at Torremolinos, near Malaga - David Benito/Getty Images Europe

British holidaymakers in Spain are poised to escape quarantine next week after ministers received data showing there are no beta variant cases in the country's main tourist areas.

The analysis, seen by The Telegraph, shows there are no beta cases in the Balearics – the most popular destination for Britons – and none in a huge expanse of the south, from Seville in the west to Granada on the southern coast and Malaga and Murcia in the east.

The variant, which originated in South Africa, is instead concentrated in one region in the north west, but even there it has fallen to below 10 per cent of cases as the delta strain – the dominant variant in the UK – squeezes out the others.

Overall, beta variant cases have fallen to 2.9 per cent of Covid cases in Spain, down from nine per cent.

Spain's infection rate has dropped from 27,000 cases a day to 25,000 in the past week after the government introduced "soft" restrictions to stem the spread of Covid, including vaccine and test passports for entry to nightclubs and night-time curfews.

There had been fears that Spain, whose rate of 700 cases per 100,000 of the population has risen seven-fold since late June, could be put on the "amber plus" list like France. That would require Britons to quarantine at home for 10 days on their return to the UK.

Ministers, however, believe the new data from Spain's Centre for Health Emergencies and Gridpoint Consulting, should quash such a move. They may also be able to avoid putting the country on the amber "watchlist", a move signalling to holidaymakers that it could switch imminently to red.

The logistics of a transfer to the red list – which would force hundreds of thousands of British holidaymakers to quarantine in hotels on their return to the UK – would prove virtually impossible to manage, industry experts said.

France is also expected to be moved off "amber plus" and possibly on to the watchlist when ministers review the red, amber and green lists next week.

Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, said on Thursday: "We want to get France up the traffic light system as soon as possible. We will take scientific evidence along every step of the way to make sure we are proceeding in accordance with that advice."

France was placed on the "amber plus" list after a surge in beta cases, but these have now fallen from nine per cent to just 1.9 per cent of cases on the mainland.

Mr Raab indicated that the high rate of beta cases on the French island of Reunion – where 100 per cent of cases are of the strain – was a factor in the decision, even though it lies thousands of miles from France.

However, the latest data from Gisaid, a respected scientific tracking service used by the Government, show there has been just one new beta variant case on Reunion in the past four weeks.

It comes with the Government under pressure to expand the green list after opening England's borders to double jabbed travellers from the EU and US.

Travel experts say 14 countries merit being added to the green list, which allows quarantine-free travel for both the jabbed and the unvaccinated. They are Austria, Bosnia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Paul Charles, the chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: "Government strategy has clearly shifted towards a more economically driven approach, and that means we'll see more countries added to the green and amber lists next week.

"Spain's infection and positivity rates are starting to flatline and decline, so it should avoid being placed on the 'amber plus' list."

For at least another month, British tourists will need to quarantine on arrival in Italy, the country's health minister announced on Thursday.

Anyone entering the country from the UK will have to show a negative Covid test result, self-isolate for five days and take another swab test at the end of the isolation period until at least August 30.