ANDALUCIA received dozens of British travellers hours before new flight restrictions came into force on Tuesday.
It came after the UK revealed the rapid growth of a new and more infectious strain of the coronavirus.
The variant, which has since been discovered in Gibraltar, Denmark, Italy and Australia, is up to 70% more infectious but is not believed to be more deadly.
It is also present in every part of Britain, bar Northern Ireland.
But hours before bringing in the travel ban on non-resident Brits, flight records show that Spain’s southernmost region received 18 flights from the UK.
Passengers, including many Brits, arrived from Leeds, London, Birmingham, Southend, Bristol, Glasgow and Manchester.
All of the flights arrived to Malaga, bar one, which landed in Sevilla.
Spain said Monday that ‘there is no record’ of the new strain in the country after it announced new severe flight restrictions on UK arrivals.
All travellers from the country are now essentially barred unless they are a returning resident or citizen.
However there have been flights arriving to Spain from the UK since the latter lifted its national lockdown on December 2 – two months after the new strain was first detected by scientists in September, according to BBC news.
Workers have also continued to cross the border from Gibraltar to Spain, the former of which confirmed the existence of the new strain on Monday.
A string of other countries – including Canada and Germany – have also restricted UK arrivals to avoid the spread of the variant, but scientists say it could already be around the globe.
The UK is among the best countries in the world when it comes to testing for the genomes found in the new strand of the virus, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
It means it is possible the mutation did not originate in the UK and that it was merely the first country to detect it.
However the cases in Denmark and Australia are believed to have been imported from Britain.
In Australia, the new strain was found in two people who had arrived to New South Wales from the UK.
The EU is now attempting to create a bloc-wide policy on arrivals from Britain.
Almost every EU country is blocking travellers from the country but the European Commission said Tuesday that it will propose for all countries to lift blanket travel bans and allow for essential travel to resume.
It will also advise that lorry drivers and other transport workers be exempt from all travel restrictions and mandatory testing.
The recommendation, which will be put to all EU ambassadors today, will also advise that member states allow residents and citizens to return as long as they provide a negative PCR test.
However all states will have the right to ignore the advice of the European Commission and continue with their own policies.
VACCINE ‘WILL STILL BE EFFECTIVE’
Meanwhile, BioNtech, the company which worked to develop the Pfizer vaccine, said today that its jab will be effective against the new strand.
“We are going to perform tests,” said president of the German lab Ugur Sahin, “but we are sure that our vaccine will be effective.”
He added: “In the past we have tested against 20 variants of the virus with different types of mutations and the result was always positive.”