SPAIN has defended its decision to open up to British tourists despite France and Germany unveiling tougher rules.

Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez allowed UK holidaymakers to return for the first time this year on Monday with no Covid test or vaccine requirements.

The surprise move came after Germany said it was barring Brits from entering as public health chiefs designated the UK as a virus variant area of concern.

Austria has also announced a ban on direct flights from the UK, and only Austrian citizens and residents will be allowed into the country from the United Kingdom from June 1. 

France subsequently followed suit by saying Brits heading to the country would have to quarantine for seven days and provide a negative coronavirus test to prevent the spread of the Indian variant.

Portugal, the first major European holiday destination to be put on the UK’s green travel list, is demanding British tourists show proof of a negative Covid test.

The number of UK holidaymakers jetting to Spain has been low so far because of its amber status which means sun seekers have to quarantine when they return.

But Carolina Darias, Spain’s Health Minister, defended the decision to put the UK on the country’s safe list and exempt people from Britain from providing proof of jabs or negative Covid tests.

On June 7 Spain will allow tourists from around the world to enter the country, providing they can prove they have had all their Covid vaccinations.

Speaking after a meeting with regional health chiefs, Mrs Darias said: “We will keep tabs on the situation, but the conditions to open up to tourism are there.

“That’s especially true for British tourism, with the UK being one of the countries with most influence in our tourism market which is a fundamental part of our economy.”

She also highlighted the UK’s low accumulated coronavirus rate as one of the reasons why it was on Spain’s safe list.

The Balearic Islands and Canary Islands are hoping to make the UK’s green list in the next ‘traffic light’ system review at the start of next month, even if mainland Spain remains on amber.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed islands would be looked at separately when travel rules are updated on June 7.

Iago Negueruela, the Balearic Islands’ tourism minister, has spent several weeks campaigning for the region to be treated separately from the Spanish mainland so British tourists can book holidays without having to quarantine on their return.

The islands’ 14-day cumulative coronavirus rate is currently 37,67 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, lower than Portugal’s.

Just over 40 people with Covid are in hospital in the islands, 18 per cent less than a week ago.

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