Image copyright Reuters Image caption The rule came into effect from midnight on Saturday in Northern Ireland Travellers coming into Northern Ireland from Spain and its islands must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine. The Department of Health said the decision was taken following medical and scientific advice and Health Minister Robin Swann said the decision
Travellers coming into Northern Ireland from Spain and its islands must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
The Department of Health said the decision was taken following medical and scientific advice and Health Minister Robin Swann said the decision “was not taken lightly”.
There has been a recent significant surge in Covid-19 cases in Spain.
Mr Swann has requested a NI Executive meeting following the decision.
The measure came into effect in Northern Ireland from midnight on Saturday.
Mr Swann said the decision was “taken after consideration of the latest data”.
He added that “a phased introduction would not have made sense” and that “public health considerations must take priority”.
“I appreciate that people returning from Spain and its islands will now be faced with an unexpected period of quarantining,” he said.
“I will be requesting a meeting of the Executive to consider what support or advice measures may be needed for employees, employers and the self-employed, and what other actions may be needed.
“The advice from the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser is that a negative Covid-19 test immediately on return from Spain would not exclude infection – so a period of self-isolation would still be required.”
Northern Ireland holidaymakers in Spain said they have been taken by surprise by the decision.
The Spanish health ministry reported more than 900 new cases of the virus on Friday.
The government of Catalonia has also said all nightclubs and late-night bars in the region are to close for the next two weeks due to a spike in infections.
‘Confused by it all’
Lauren Spence is due to return to Belfast on Monday from Costa Blanca where she is on holiday with her family.
She told BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday with Steven Rainey the news of quarantine had “hit us like a brick”.
She said it would be difficult to explain to her three-year-old child that they cannot see friends or leave the house for two weeks, and it would be “really, really tough”.
“We have felt very safe and secure here. It seems strange to us when we have kept ourselves to ourselves that we are then having to self-isolate upon our return,” she said.
“We are quite confused about it all.”
Scott McFarland, from Lurgan, flew to Alicante on Saturday with his wife, just hours before the quarantine changes were announced.
He said they heard the news during dinner, which he described as “a wee bit unfortunate”.
He said the short notice given to holidaymakers was “a bit much”.
“If they had given a few days grace, they were prepared to give a month of grace for the enforcement of wearing masks in shops in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“Twelve hours notice of ‘get home before midnight’, it’s a bit much.”
Robin Swann said he had spoken with his UK counterparts before taking the decision and that the recent spike in cases in Spain was a “cause for concern”.
The quarantine measures will apply to those returning from mainland Spain, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, such as Palma and Ibiza. However, Foreign Office advice against non-essential travel, which has ramifications for travel insurance, only applies to mainland Spain.
The Airport Operators Association said the new measures will “further damage what is already a fragile restart of the aviation sector which continues to face the biggest challenge in its history”.
Budget airline EasyJet said it was “disappointed” and would operate a full schedule in the coming days.
“Customers who no longer wish to travel can transfer their flights without a change fee or receive a voucher for the value of the booking,” the company said in a statement.
The SDLP’s health spokesperson Colin McGrath said the announcement would create difficulties for some of those due to return from Spain in the coming days.
“I hope that testing will be made available quickly for these people so a quick result will enable them to return to work sooner,” he said.
“I feel especially for families with children who may now have to explain why they cannot travel.”
The UK’s biggest tour operator, Tui, has cancelled all mainland Spanish holidays until 9 August.