Boris Johnson today warned we are seeing “signs of a second wave” of coronavirus in continental Europe.
The Prime Minister issued the stark alert after a spike in cases forced him to impose 14-day quarantine on thousands of Brits returning from Spain.
And he signalled he will crack down on Brit holidaymakers in other countries if needed, saying: “We will continue, throughout the summer, to take such action where it is necessary.”
It comes after he faced fury for enacting quarantine with just a few hours’ notice. And No10 has refused to let those who come back from Spain get Statutory Sick Pay – saying all travel carries a risk.
Spain’s PM last night blasted Britain’s “error” of advising against “non-essential” travel to the whole country, despite the Balearic islands having low rates of Covid-19.
Pedro Sanchez snapped: “In most of Spain, the incidence is very much inferior to even the numbers registered in the United Kingdom.”
But defending Britain’s actions, the PM said: “What we have to do is take swift and decisive action where we think that the risks are starting to bubble up again.
“And let’s be absolutely clear about what’s happening in Europe, amongst some of our European friends.
“I’m afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic.
“And we all remember what happened last time – it’s absolutely vital therefore that we make the necessary preparations here in the UK as we are doing.”
Despite France, Germany and other nations being at risk of being added to the quarantine list, Mr Johnson stopped short of saying British families should not go abroad at all.
He said: “Obviously these are decisions for families, for individuals, about where they want to go.”
Mr Johnson made his comments on a visit to the Canal Side Heritage Centre in Nottingham, where he launched a new cycling scheme that will hand people £50 bike repair vouchers.
Spain recorded 8,207 new cases in the week to July 19 – up from 5,292 the week before.
Since Sunday, anyone returning from Spain must isolate for 14 days in their home without leaving at all – or face a £1,000 fine. But only one of those fines has been dished out by police forces.
The Prime Minister did not rule out reports the 14-day quarantine period could be reduced to 10 days in future, if people obtain a negative Covid-19 test.
But he said for now, the rules are unchanged.
Boris Johnson said: “We are always looking at ways in which we can mitigate the impact of the quarantine, try to help people, try to make sure that the science is working to help travellers and holidaymakers.
“At the moment you have got to stick with the guidance that we are giving, we have given the guidance now about Spain and about some other places around the world.
“I’m afraid if we do see signs of a second wave in other countries it is really our job, our duty, to act swiftly and decisively to stop … travellers coming back from those places seeding the disease here in the UK.”
Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, chair of the All-Parliamentary Party Group on Coronavirus, said: “With growing signs of a second wave of this deadly pandemic in Europe, there is no time to waste in learning the lessons from the first.
“The government’s complacent approach earlier this year cost lives, we cannot afford for the same mistakes to be made again.
“Urgent action is needed to improve the Test and Trace system and put in place a clear strategy for dealing with a second spike.”
The Prime Minister accepted the UK has to be “vigilant” regarding the threat of a second wave of Covid-19.
Mr Johnson added: “Where you can do local easing, then of course you should, but we’ll see what the review says.
“I have every sympathy with the views of the (mayor of Leicester Peter Soulsby) and local MPs, but we have to prioritise public health and apply simple common sense, and I think people also understand that.
“We’ll do everything we can in these tough times for businesses, for families, for people whose mental health has been affected by the lockdown, to give them the support that they need.”
He added: “The most important thing is for everybody in all communities to heed the advice, to follow the advice, not to be spreading it accidentally and get it right down, and we’ll be able to ease the restrictions across the country.
“But clearly we now face, I’m afraid, the threat of a second wave in other parts of Europe and we just have to be vigilant and we have to be very mindful.”
Mr Johnson said it was up to individuals to decide whether they wanted to take the risk of going abroad in the present circumstances.
“These are decisions for families, for individuals, about where they want to go,” he said.
“It’s vital that when people are coming back from abroad, if they are coming back from a place where I’m afraid there is another outbreak, they must go into quarantine.
“That’s why we have taken the action that we have and we will continue, throughout the summer, to take such action where it is necessary.”
The Foreign Office now advises against “non-essential travel” to the whole of Spain – even the Balearic islands where case numbers are low.
According to the Telegraph, at least 10 Britons have already tested positive for coronavirus after returning from Spain.
Minister Simon Clarke could not confirm the figures but said the possibility was “entirely plausible”.
People arriving in the UK from Spain could have to quarantine for 10 days rather than a fortnight.
Under plans being examined by ministers, people returning from high-risk countries could be tested for coronavirus eight days after returning.
If the test came back negative, they would be allowed to stop isolating.
A Whitehall source told the Mirror the idea is “being canvassed” and “on the table” but warned: “Like a lot of these things it’s whether or not it’s actually practical.
“These things sound like good ideas but you need to know if they’ll actually work.”
Meanwhile, the Mirror understands Department of Health officials considered the idea of testing every single person who returned from Spain after July 23.
It was raised amid fears some Brits coming home from their holidays – who must enter 14 days’ quarantine as of July 26 – have already carried Covid-19 back with them.
But sources in Downing Street and the Department for Transport today played down the prospect.
A No10 source said they were not expecting an announcement on blanket testing for returnees. And local government minister Simon Clarke today suggested testing everyone wouldn’t work.