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Greece and Spain battle to spare Brits from EU quarantine crackdown

Greece and Spain battle to spare Britons from EU quarantine crackdown: Tourists hotspots lead resistance to demands for ban… but Malta and Portugal bring in new curbs unless you’ve had two jabs

  • Angela Merkel pushing for EU-wide restrictions on Brits amid Delta variant fears
  • Spain and Greece said they would welcome UK tourists with negative Covid test
  • Yesterday, Portugal and Malta announced quarantine-on-arrival rules for Britons

Spain and Greece were last night leading the resistance to Germany’s demand for Europe to effectively ban British holidaymakers this summer.

EU diplomats clashed at a behind-closed-doors meeting in Brussels, with German officials pushing hard to convince other countries to quarantine all UK arrivals – even those who’ve been vaccinated.

Yesterday, both Portugal and Malta announced new quarantine-on-arrival rules for British holidaymakers.

However, they stopped short of German demands and exempted those who have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

Angela Merkel has been pushing for EU-wide restrictions on Britons amid fears on the continent over the Indian, or Delta, variant. Pictured: Merkel talks with France’s President Emmanuel Macron

Meanwhile, both Spain and Greece said they would not even require Britons to be fully vaccinated – insisting they would welcome UK tourists simply with proof of a negative Covid test.

Angela Merkel has been pushing for EU-wide restrictions on Britons amid fears on the continent over the Indian, or Delta, variant.

The German Chancellor used a summit in Brussels last week to try to strongarm fellow leaders into all imposing a 14-day quarantine for all British arrivals.

The issue is critical, with ministers here just having promised to open up foreign holidays to amber list destinations this summer – which includes most of Europe.

Greece and Spain have argued against the German proposals, with Greek tourism minister Harry Theoharis saying yesterday: ‘There is no tightening of the restrictions for the time being.’ 

He said his country would be ‘increasing the number of tests we are doing at the borders’, but that the plan was to continue accepting unvaccinated as well as fully inoculated UK travellers.

Yesterday, both Portugal and Malta announced new quarantine-on-arrival rules for British holidaymakers. Pictured: Holidaymakers enjoying the clear waters of the Blue Lagoon in Malta

Meanwhile in a further direct snub to Berlin, Spanish foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said her government would still ‘welcome British citizens to spend their holidays in Spain’.

Madrid announced a slight tightening of restrictions which, from Thursday, will mean unvaccinated UK holidaymakers will have to show proof of a negative test on arrival in Spain.

But crucially, no British tourists will be subject to quarantine, a huge boost for the 18million Britons who visited Spain annually pre-pandemic.

Since last month all UK holidaymakers, regardless of their vaccination status, have been permitted to enter Spain without proof of a negative test. It means unvaccinated holidaymakers travelling from this week to the Balearic Islands, which also joins the UK’s green list tomorrow, will now need a negative test to enter.

Portugal went further than Spain by announcing that only fully vaccinated Britons will be allowed to enter for holidays without having to quarantine on arrival.

Meanwhile, both Spain and Greece said they would not even require Britons to be fully vaccinated – and would welcome UK tourists simply with proof of a negative Covid test

Those not fully vaccinated will have to quarantine for 14 days regardless of whether they have a negative test. It will be a blow to young adults not due to receive their second jab until after the summer. It could also kill off summer holidays to Portugal for families where parents are fully vaccinated but children are yet to receive their second jab.

The rules also mean that anyone aged 12 and over that is not fully vaccinated must quarantine on arrival in Portugal.

As Britain is not vaccinating under-18s, this would also block holidays for families with children between 12 and 17 years old.

However, the measures keep the hopes of foreign holidays alive for those that are double-jabbed. And in a further boost, the new rules will not apply to Madeira, where unvaccinated Britons will still be welcome with a negative test.

Malta yesterday, however, confirmed it is introducing the same measures as mainland Portugal, ruling out holidays for all but double-jabbed travellers.

Highlighting the split among European countries about what to do with British tourists, one EU diplomat said of the possibility of a bloc-wide ban as pushed for by Germany: ‘This is something that cannot be done. They decided that it is up to member states to decide whether they will impose further measures or not.’ 

Mrs Merkel’s official spokesman, Steffen Seibert, admitted there was little appetite for a tougher EU-wide ban, but vowed to continue pushing for it.

He said: ‘Where this uniformity does not exist, we will continue to campaign for it.’ Mrs Merkel has taken a consistently hard line to border controls and is even introducing restrictions on fellow EU member Portugal after Delta variant cases surged there.

Even France, which has backed Mrs Merkel’s call for an EU-wide policy, supports quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated people and accepts double-jabbed UK holidaymakers.

One EU diplomat said Mrs Merkel was looking increasingly ‘isolated’ over the issue.

It came as Abta wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urging them to speed up the reopening of international travel.

The UK’s largest travel association called for more major destinations to be added to the green list and for plans to drop quarantine for fully vaccinated Britons returning from amber countries to be fast-tracked. It also called for a fresh rescue package.  

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