Travelers coming to Spain from abroad will have to self-quarantine for 14 days, according to a new Health Ministry order published on Tuesday in the Official State Gazette (BOE).
The quarantine requirements for travelers coming into Spain go into effect this coming Friday, May 15, and will remain in force throughout the duration of the state of alarm, which is due to end on May 24 but may be extended by the government if other parties support such a move in the lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies. If the emergency situation is extended for another two weeks, the travel restrictions will, in principle, continue to apply.
Health Minister Salvador Illa added on Tuesday that the quarantine will “very likely [extend] throughout the entire deescalation period,” which is scheduled to end in June if there are no new spikes in coronavirus transmission. Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, Illa said that the goal is to ensure that “the enormous effort of these last nine weeks is not ruined because of one imported case.”
Fernando Simón, the head of the Coordination Center for Health Alerts and Emergencies, said that now that coronavirus indicators are improving in Spain, “people who come from other countries could pose one of the biggest risks. We’d be in a similar situation to late February and early March, when all our cases were imported or linked to imported cases.”
Simón added that the quarantine is “an exercise in prevention” that will be implemented for the necessary period of time “until other countries can reach the transmission levels of Spain.”
Spain is following in the footsteps of other European countries that have introduced 14-day quarantines for travelers entering their territory. In Spain, until now, this isolation period had only been applied to repatriated Spaniards and residents of Spain traveling from Italy. Starting on Friday, the same rule will apply to all international travelers, with a few exceptions for specific types of workers.
Faced with increasingly complex travel regulations in Europe, including quarantines for international travelers in several member states, Brussels on Tuesday asked national governments to make their decisions based on scientific criteria, and in close contact with other EU members. The European Commission, which favors less stringent measures, also wants the same rules to apply to everyone. “The principle of proportionality and non-discrimination must be respected when applying quarantines,” said a Commission spokesperson.
Some countries have been applying quarantines to travelers from specific countries. By March 14, the day that the Spanish executive introduced a state of alarm to deal with the coronavirus crisis, 110 countries across the world had banned Spanish travelers from entering their territory or were forcing them to observe two-week quarantines.
During the quarantine period, anyone coming into Spanish territory from another country will have to remain inside their home or rented lodgings. Trips outside will be limited to the purchase of essential products such as food and medicine, to seek medical assistance, and for other situations of urgent necessity. Face masks must be worn at all times.
Cross-border workers, long-haul truckers, airplane crews and health professionals on their way to work are left out of the quarantine order, as long as they have not been in contact with anyone diagnosed with Covid-19.
Health authorities may contact individuals in quarantine to check on their health status, and anyone who develops symptoms is instructed to call the regional health services.
Travel agencies and transportation companies will have to inform prospective customers about these requirements when travel arrangements are made. Airlines will provide customers with a Passenger Location Card that passengers must have with them when they enter Spain.
According to the government, “the favorable evolution of the epidemiological situation” and the start of the deescalation process “make it necessary to reinforce control measures" based on the global distribution of the virus and the principle of precaution.
Air and maritime borders
The Interior Ministry has also decided to implement air and maritime border controls between May 15 and May 24, when the state of alarm is set to end.
Only Spaniards, residents of Spain who can prove regular residency (the ministry warns that owning a home in Spain is not sufficient proof of residency), cross-border workers, diplomats, healthcare professionals and people traveling for reasons of force majeure will be allowed into Spanish territory through these borders, according to an order signed by Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, published on Tuesday in the BOE. Workers involved in freight transportation may also enter but only for as long as required to perform their work.
“Considering that during the deescalation process, residents of Spain are subject to travel restrictions between provinces even as measures within these geographical boundaries are eased, it is considered convenient to also limit access to these areas by air and sea from other member states,” reads the BOE published today. “It is reasonable to think that the gradual easing [of confinement conditions] will encourage foreign residents to travel to our country, creating a contradiction with domestic mobility limitations.”
The BOE order notes that several members of the Schengen area (22 European Union members plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) already have restrictions in place at their air and maritime borders, including Germany and Belgium.
On March 17 Spain introduced controls on its land borders with France and Portugal. These will also remain in place until May 24. Residents of other EU or Schengen states who are traveling to their Spanish residences may enter through land borders, according to an order published on May 8.
English version by Susana Urra.