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Spain, Britain still banter over COVID-19

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BRITAIN’S decision to require Britons returning from vacation in Spain to quarantine for 14 days has angered a Spanish government desperate to salvage something from the wrecked summer tourism season. And it augurs badly for Britain’s ongoing, fraught negotiations with the European Union for a post-Brexit free-trade deal.

  The two governments have been at loggerheads since Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his advisers abruptly reintroduced the quarantine measures six days ago — to howls of protests not only from the Spanish government but also from Britain’s struggling airlines and Spanish hoteliers trying to stave off bankruptcy.

  Under relentless pressure from Madrid, the British government says it will review in 10 days’ time the quarantine requirement, which has prompted tens of thousands of would-be vacationers to cancel their travel plans. Low-cost airlines have halted flights to Spain. The review gives some hope to Spain that Britain may reverse its decision.

  Johnson’s official spokesman warned “no travel is risk-free during this pandemic.” Since then, Luxembourg has been added to Britain’s list of risky countries to visit.

  The Spanish government has been lobbying Downing Street to change its mind, pointing out that large parts of Spain, including the tourist hotspots of the Canary and Balearic Islands, are safer than Britain and have much lower coronavirus infection rates.

  But Britain’s quarantine decision is prompting a fierce backlash on the Iberian Peninsula that risks significant impact on Brexit talks.

  Spanish ministers are fuming. They were given no warning by London. The Spanish see the move as a stab in the back. Britons account for more than a fifth of the 80 million tourists who visit Spain in average every year. Nearly half a million Britons own vacation homes in Spain. The Spanish tourism association has offered to pay for British travelers to take virus tests in Spain.

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