CORONAVIRUS

Spanish Health Ministry begins temperature checks for flight arrivals

The measure is aimed at minimizing the risk of imported coronavirus cases, which authorities say pose one of the biggest risks to the downward trend of the outbreak

A traveler has her temperature taken at Madrid-Barajas airport.
A traveler has her temperature taken at Madrid-Barajas airport.Olmo Calvo

From Friday, May 15, international travelers who fly into Spain will have to have to have their temperature taken, according to an order published yesterday in the Official State Gazette (BOE). The measure will last until June 15, but could be extended beyond this date.

The new regulation coincides with the extension on the restrictions on non-essential travel for people coming into Spanish territory, which will be in place for another month. It also comes on the same day that the 14-day quarantine for international visitors came into effect in Spain.

Spanish health authorities have warned that imported coronavirus cases represent “one of the biggest risks” to the improving situation in Spain, which has seen daily coronavirus fatalities fall from a peak of 950 on April 2, to 138 on Friday.

According to the Health Ministry, if a person has a fever, their temperature will be taken several times to confirm the reading. “In any event, an individualized evaluation with an epidemiological survey and an inquiry into other symptoms will be carried out,” the Health Ministry confirmed.

Temperature checks have been in place in airports in countries such as South Korea since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. But in fully operational facilities these controls have led to long delays and false negatives. It is estimated that only a small number of coronavirus infections are detected via this method, given that there is growing evidence of the significance of transmission between asymptomatic or presymptomatic cases, who would not be identified by the temperature checks.

But with fewer passengers and flights arriving at airports, delays and staff shortages will not present a problem. The measure has been in place in Spain’s Canary Islands since the implementation of the state of alarm on March 14.

Only travelers who arrive in Spain by air will be subject to the temperature checks. The regulation does not apply to the land border with Andorra or travelers coming from Gibraltar, the British Offshore Territory in the south of the Iberian peninsula.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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