Germany on Friday listed all of Spain as a Covid-19 risk area due to concerns about a new spike in coronavirus infections, and a French official urged visitors to the country to get vaccinated first.
Although the news may have little real impact on travel conditions, they feed fears of mass cancellations within the Spanish tourism industry, which is counting on this summer to start recovering from a prolonged slump.
Spanish government officials on Friday defended the safety of travel to Spain, noting that over 42% of the population has been fully immunized and that despite rising transmission among unvaccinated youths, hospitalization and death rates remain low.
“This is not the time to ask our citizens to cancel their vacations in Spain, especially if they are vaccinated,” said Spain’s foreign minister, Arancha González Laya, asking traveling Europeans for “prudence, vaccination and certificates, in that order.”
Spanish government spokesperson María Jesús Montero said that the executive is working with countries on alert over rising cases in Spain “in order to preserve the arrival of tourists throughout the summer. This wave is not causing the same number of hospitalizations and deaths as the previous ones. It is important to underscore that data points are going down: there are fewer fatalities, fewer admissions and fewer patients in intensive care.”
González Laya met on Friday with Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, who confirmed that “there is no protectionism for tourism in France, there is a desire to guarantee standards of health; tourism is fundamental for both our countries. We all want to go on vacation, but protecting health is fundamental, and that’s why we have to be vaccinated.”
Le Drian’s statement was viewed as a mild rebuke of his secretary of state for European affairs Clément Beaune, who a day earlier had recommended on the television network France 2: “To those of you who have not yet booked your vacations, avoid Spain and Portugal as destinations.” The remarks had caused unrest within the government of Spain, where the tourism sector contributed over 12% to the national economy in 2019, a figure that has plummeted to 4.3% as a result of the pandemic, according to the industry group Exceltur.
Germany’s risk list
Meanwhile Germany on Friday listed all of Spain as a Covid-19 risk area, including the Canary and Balearic Islands. Until now, only seven regions had been on this list, which is compiled by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), in charge of monitoring the pandemic.
The new status, which goes into effect on Sunday, has no practical effects for travelers to Spain, who will have to meet the same requirements upon their return as they do now: showing proof of vaccination, recovery from Covid-19 or a negative diagnostic test. But now all travelers arriving from Spain will have to fill out an online form with information about where they will stay.
No quarantine is required, although this would change for travelers without proof of vaccination or recovery if Spain were placed on the next “high-incidence” level due to rising cases. For now, no member of the German government has publicly advised against travel to mainland Spain or to the islands, a favorite destination of German tourists.
In welcome news for Spain, the UK government on Thursday announced that fully vaccinated travelers do not have to quarantine in England when returning from countries on its amber list, which includes all of Spain save for the Balearic Islands.
The delta strain of the coronavirus is now dominant in Spain but also in Germany, where it represents two thirds of all new detected cases, according to the latest RKI report. But the seven-day cumulative incidence in Germany is 5.5 cases per 100,000, compared with 179 in Spain.
German media outlets have been covering the new spike in Spain extensively, with particular attention to an outbreak on the popular island of Mallorca among students on end-of-term vacations in late June.
The Spanish government is expecting around 17 million international arrivals this summer – just 45% of those who came in the summer of 2019 but three times more than in the summer of 2020. A record 83.5 million tourists visited Spain in 2019. A steady decline in transmission and a good pace of vaccination had fueled hopes of a reasonably succesful summer season.
English version by Susana Urra.