Boris Johnson has scrapped an air bridge agreement with Spain and reimposed quarantine measures on tourists re-entering Britain from the European country.
It comes after the Spanish health minister reported 971 new infections of coronavirus on Thursday – the biggest daily spike since the lockdown in the country was eased.
The change in policy from the government will mean any tourist returning to the UK from Spain will be requested to self-isolate for a 14-day period, or risk being fined by the authorities. It takes effect from midnight.
A government spokesperson said on Saturday night: “The Joint Biosecurity Centre together with Public Health England (PHE) have updated their coronavirus assessments of Spain based on the latest data.
“As a result, Spain has been removed from the lists of countries from which passengers arriving in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are exempted from the need to self-isolate.
“Protecting public health is our absolute priority and we have taken this decision to limit any potential spread to the UK.
“We’ve always been clear that we would act immediately to remove a country where necessary. Both our list of quarantine exemptions and the Foreign Office travel advice are being updated to reflect these latest risk assessments.”
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that the Scottish government would also reimpose the quarantine restrictions.
“This reinforces the point that these matters are subject to change at short notice & so my advice is to be cautious about non-essential foreign travel,” she tweeted.
The move will throw travellers’ plans into chaos, after ministers gave the green light to British tourists wanting to holiday in Spain earlier this month.
The country appeared on a list published earlier in July of 59 countries and territories tourists could travel to without quarantine restrictions.
But in recent days fears of a second spike in Covid-19 infections in Spain have escalated as Catalonia became the latest region to crack down on nightlife.
The wealthy northeast region – home to Barcelona – ordered all nightclubs to close for 15 days and put a midnight curfew on bars in the greater Barcelona area and other towns around Lleida that have become contagion hot zones.
The Foreign Office advice for Spain previously stated that PHE had been monitoring reports of “substantial increases in Covid-19 in the regions of Aragon and Catalonia”. It now advises against all but essential travel to the Spanish mainland.
Spain is just one of dozens of countries that have reported rising infections in recent days.
Coronavirus is now rising in every region of the globe, figures show.
What are the UK lockdown rules now?
How to ease yourself back into socialising once lockdown lifts
The new lost generation
Which countries are seeing a second wave of coronavirus?
How to wear a face mask safely