Foreign Office tells Brits don’t travel to Spain areas badly hit by coronavirus

The Foreign Office has warned Britons not to travel to parts of Spain – including locked-down Madrid – that have been badly hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

The non-essential travel warning applies to the capital Madrid, the wine-making region of La Rioja and the northern municipalities of La Bastida and Vitoria (both in Basque country) and Miranda de Ebro (in Castilla y Leon).

Despite the warning, flights continue to operate between those areas and the UK.

Spain declared a 15-day national state of emergency as cases soared from just under 600 on Sunday to more than 4,20o, as of Friday afternoon, with at least 120 deaths.

The outbreak has led to lockdowns, school and shop closures, sporting events being cancelled and a downturn in the tourism sector as doubts are cast on spring and summer getaways for tens of thousands of British holidaymakers.

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Spain has the fifth most cases in the world and the second most in Europe, behind Italy, in an outbreak that has centred on Madrid and the Basque country.

The national state of emergency begins on Saturday, allowing the government to confine infected people and ration goods, and bring in the military for various roles if needed.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who declared the state of emergency, said the country could hit 10,000 coronavirus cases as early as next week.

He said the administration would undertake all necessary measures to protect Spain's citizens.

In Madrid, bars, restaurants and non-essential shops were ordered to close during a lockdown that will begin on Saturday.

The only shops allowed to remain open are supermarkets and pharmacies.

All schools and universities were closed and the city's public transport network is being disinfected every day to kill any bacteria on surfaces.

Similar closures or restrictions are to be taken in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, including Ibiza and Majorca, where nightclubs are being closed and restaurants are reducing capacity.

More than 2,000 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the capital.

It has the highest number of cases in the country.

Madrid was eerily quiet on Friday, with shops, streets and cafes largely deserted, even before the terrace shutdown was announced.

Basque Country, one of Spain's wealthiest regions, declared a health emergency.

Regional president Inigo Urkullu said it would allow the region to declare quarantine rapidly if needed, as well as evacuate people or restrict access to some areas.

This comes after Catalan authorities locked down on Thursday four towns around the village of Igualada – 30 miles north of Barcelona – after a significant outbreak in the area.

Police checkpoints were set up on roads and motorways as the lockdown affected about 70,000 residents.

Hundreds of thousands of Britons visit the affected areas every year.

As the Foreign Office updated its travel advice on Friday, a spokesman said: “We are advising against all but essential travel to the regions of Madrid, La Rioja and the municipalities of La Bastida, Vitoria and Miranda de Ebro.

"Airlines are continuing to run flights as normal to and from these areas.”

The spokesman said the travel advice had been updated because they had been designated by the Spanish authorities as "areas of community transmission".

The Foreign Office is not currently advising against travel to other areas of Spain, or suggesting that British nationals in the country leave, as transport routes out remain open.

Last year, British nationals made 19million trips to Spain, the Foreign Office said.

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A British dad tested positive in Majorca last month and this week an estate agent from Yorkshire and his Spanish partner, a nurse at Marbella’s Costa del Sol hospital, were ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days at their home in Mijas, Olive Press reported.

The British estate agent's partner tested positive for Covid-19 after catching it from a teenage patient at the hospital.

He told friends and family to “stay away for two weeks and also regularly check their health too in case they have also caught it".

Dozens of Britons were trapped at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel in Tenerife after Italian tourists tested positive for the virus.

A UK woman who was staying at the hotel ended up catching the bug.

Spain has implemented few measures to restrict the movement of tourists.

It put about 700 guests at the H10 hotel in Tenerife in quarantine and on Tuesday cancelled all direct flights to and from Italy for two weeks.

Jorge Marichal, president of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Apartments, told The Local that the tourism industry has already suffered “significant cancellations”. 

Reservations have fallen between 20 and 30 per cent, he added.

The worst affected areas are the Costa Brava, Costa Blanca, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands and Madrid.

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