British holidaymakers are scrambling to get home from Spain after the coronavirus outbreak caused the country to close its beaches amid a nation-wide lockdown.
Pictures show how Benidorm on the Costa Blanca was abandoned as tourists who normally flock to the region’s beaches for winter sun were forced to stay away.
The sandy stretch was shut after a declaration of emergency resulted in beaches being closed off to the public in the Costa del Sol, the Canary Islands and the Balearics.
And today the exodus of Brits gathered pace as tourists scrambled to get home and expats tried to return to the UK to care for elderly relatives.
Have you been caught up in the coronavirus crisis while abroad? Email [email protected]
Workers reported chaos at major transport hubs like Malaga Airport as Spanish airports operator Aena broadcast megaphone messages urging travellers to maintain a safe distance from each other.
One described the Costa del Sol airport as “packed” and claimed he had problems moving around because of the number of people.
Charity worker Brigit Chattwell, 49, was one of the Brit tourists who cut short her holiday to Spain to see her sister as its government introduced a 15-day state of emergency.
But her trip was cut short by one day as Spain’s holiday resorts were shuttered and police began to fine people for flouting orders to stay at home.
Brigit’s unscheduled return cost her nearly £500 in flights alone after she abandoned plans to return with Jet2 and returned instead with British Airways.
Brigit, who lives near Royston, Hertfordshire, said: “I checked before I flew out to Spain and everyone was saying it was going to be fine.
“Things snowballed very quickly and the following evening I realised I needed to start thinking about getting out early.
“It was chaos at Madrid. It was just a weird atmosphere. People were panicking at times.
“The whole experience was pretty stressful. I’m just relieved I’m now home.
“It was my decision but I feel like I’ve taken the right decision. None of us really know where this is all going.”
Many Brits who want to return by road are taking the view they are best off staying put for the time being – although some admitted they are uncertain when to go as European borders close down.
Robin Bailey, 60 and his wife Claire, 45, were planning on cutting short their winter break and driving back to their home in Bath, Somerset, later today but say they will leave their final decision till the last minute.
Meanwhile eerie pictures show the streets of Barcelona looking like a ghost town as the unofficial lockdown begins.
Francesca Rietschy, 30, was on holiday in the capital of Spain’s Catalonia region for her the 40th birthday of her partner, Ozz.
Together with their five-month-old baby, Freya, they were expecting a relaxing weekend in the Catalan city.
But instead the city was closed to tourists and police were turning people away from busy areas.
Francesca said: “The pictures show the main streets empty that are normally full. It’s because they have put the city on an unofficial lockdown.
“They are waiting to put it on a proper lockdown on Wednesday.
“They have shut the main square and there are police everywhere, they are turning people away from the built up areas.
“It feels like a completely different place, there’s no vibe to it at all. Everyone just looks a bit sad and lost.
Closing Spain’s borders are among the options under consideration to help stem the coronavirus outbreak, officials in the country said earlier today.