Around 500,000 British holidaymakers are believed to be in Spain.
A further 1.6 million people are estimated to be booked to travel from the UK to Spain in the next month alone; it is by far the most popular destination for British holidaymakers.
These are the implications for their trips.
What has happened?
On 25 July, the government warned against all non-essential travel to mainland Spain. It was in response to several spikes of coronavirus infection in the northeastern provinces of Aragon, Navarra and Catalonia.
The FCO now deems all of Spain to constitute “an unacceptably high risk for British travellers.”
In addition, all holidaymakers returning to the UK must self-isolate at home for 14 days, following the date of their arrival.
They can leave home only for medical assistance, to attend court or a funeral, to go shopping for essentials if there is no one else who can supply provisions, or to leave the country again.
Leaving the dwelling for work, exercise, socialising or walking the dog is not permitted.
What is the effect of the travel advice?
Standard travel insurance policies are invalidated if you visit a country against Foreign Office travel advice. In addition, travel firms do not send package holidaymakers to such destinations – though flights are continuing.
If I am in Spain, must I leave?
No. British holidaymakers in Spain are not being advised to return home. Their insurance cover will remain in place.
Some may choose to leave early in order to start – and therefore finish – quarantine earlier. If they decide to do this, they will need to arrange flights at extra cost. Insurance is unlikely to cover them.
I have a holiday booked there later this week. What are my options?
That depends on the exact type of holiday.
In theory you should get your money back within two weeks, but that time limit is highly unlikely to be met given the extreme stress on the travel industry caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
These and all other package holidays, including those arranged by online travel agents such as Love Holidays, On The Beach and Travel Republic, are covered by Package Travel Regulations 2018.
They say you can get a full refund “in the event of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances occurring at the place of destination or its immediate vicinity and which significantly affect (a) the performance of the package, or (b) the carriage of passengers to the destination”.
The traveller in search of a refund will contend that the sudden imposition of Foreign Office advice against travel to Spain because of the “unacceptably high risk" for British travellers, constitutes “unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances" – and that it will significantly affect the performance of the package,” because travel insurance will be invalidated and the traveller would need to quarantine on return..
Abta, the travel association, says: “The new regulations give customers the right to cancel where the incident significantly affects the performance of your holiday, so you can cancel your package holiday and receive a refund.
"Such situations will usually arise where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issues advice against travel to the destination.”
So even if your scheduled flight on Ryanair or easyJet is going ahead, if you are on a package – and have an Atol certificate to confirm it – then you should be entitled to a refund. But you should make every effort to contact the travel company to confirm this.
Some, including On the Beach, argue that they are able to carry passengers to the destination, and the accommodation (or a suitable alternative) can be provided, so the package can still be provided without its performance being significantly affected.
On the Beach says: "FCO advice against all but essential travel has previously meant that there is a clear and present threat to life resulting in a total shutdown of that destination and all flights to that destination.
"If this were the case currently with your destination, then flights from the UK would not remain operational in the volumes that they are."
The Independent is seeking urgent clarification about the legal situation.
I have a package holiday booked for August. Do I get a refund?
Not automatically, because no one knows how long the advice will be in place. There are likely to be staggered cancellations
Tui has cancelled holidays to the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands only up to and including Friday 31 July.
Holidays to mainland Spain are cancelled up to and including Sunday 9 August.
Jet2 said on Monday night: “Following the latest government advice regarding travel to the Balearic and Canary Islands from the UK, we are advising customers who are due to travel to Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza not to go to the airport tomorrow (Tuesday 28 July) as we are not operating flights to these destinations.
“This advice also applies to customers travelling to any of our destinations in mainland Spain.
“We will be operating our scheduled programme of flights back to the UK from these destinations tomorrow.
“This is an extremely fast-moving situation, and we will provide a further update tomorrow.” To mainland Spain, Jet2 has cancelled everything up to and including 16 August 2020.
“We urge the government to provide the industry with clarity, so that we can keep our all-important customers up-to-date and informed,” Jet2 said.
I booked flight-only. What are my rights?
You have far less protection. Despite the sudden government decision, many flights are still operating. If the departure goes ahead as planned, the airline is legally entitled to refuse a refund.
However, easyJet has said that it will offer options to passengers booked to Spain in the near future, enabling them to switch journeys or take a voucher.
The airline said: “We are monitoring the situation and continue to provide some flexibility for those who, if they no longer wish to travel, can transfer flights without a change fee or receive a voucher for the value of their booking.”
British Airways said: “Customers who decide they no longer wish to travel are able to claim a voucher for future travel.”
But Ryanair spokesperson told The Independent: “For non-cancelled flights, standard T&Cs apply. Passengers who do not wish to travel on their booked flight can move it to another date, in which case, a flight change fee and the difference in fare may apply.”
While new Ryanair bookings until September offer no flight-change fee flexibility, for tickets bought earlier the cost is £35 to £95 per flight – plus any increase in fare compared with the original.
Will travel insurance help?
Possibly, if you took out a policy before mid-March (when the coronavirus crisis took hold and became a “known risk”) and it covers disruption caused by a change in Foreign Office advice. Otherwise it is unlikely you will get any recompense.