Spain reopens to global tourists, provided they can prove they have been vaccinated against Covid-19

Antigen tests are now accepted instead of PCRs for travelers from countries on the list of risk zones such as France and Germany while no tests are required of visitors from low-incidence areas

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A police officer checking passenger documents at Madrid's Adolfo Suárez-Barajas Airport earlier this year.Chema Moya (EFE)
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The Spanish government has published the new requisites for travellers arriving in the country from outside the European Union and countries associated with the Schengen free-travel area. As was expected, the text released in the Official State Gazette (BOE) on Saturday states that from today, passengers from risk zones will be permitted to enter Spain if they have been administered the full doses of a Covid-19 vaccine approved by either the World Health Organization (WHO) or the European Medicines Agency (EMA), more than 14 days prior to arrival.

No proof of vaccination, recovery or diagnostic test will be required from tourists from low-risk zones, said the government in a release, although everyone will still have to fill out the travel form available on Spain Travel Health (SpTH). Once the European Union’s Digital Covid pass goes into effect on July 1, this will also enable travelers to prove their immunity to the coronavirus if they are required to.

“At ports and airports there will be two control points. Whoever comes from countries or zones not included on the list of risk zones will have access to a quick control with the QR code obtained from SpTH. And once the EU Digital Covid certificate goes into effect, whoever has this document will also have access to this quick control,” says the government statement.

For travelers from EU areas that are not included in the Health Ministry’s risk zones, no proof of vaccination, immunity or diagnostic test will be required, said the government

“Those who come from areas included on the list of risk countries will have to undergo a random document check that will look at their departure point and its incidence rate,” adds the statement, noting that for people showing a vaccination certificate, Spain will only accept the vaccines that are accepted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA): Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Janssen, Sinopharm and Sinovac-Coronavac.

Currently, there are exceptions for travelers from India, Brazil and South Africa, due to the coronavirus variants of concern that are circulating there. Travel to Spain from these countries is prohibited even for those who are fully vaccinated.

According to the BOE, minors will also be permitted to enter Spanish territory when accompanying people who have been fully vaccinated. Travelers who until now were permitted to enter on presentation of a negative coronavirus test can now opt for a cheaper antigen test rather than the more expensive PCR.

The fact that non-EU travelers can now return to Spain after a prohibition of more than a year is good news for the country’s key tourism sector. But an even better development is the switch to antigen tests from PCR tests. The sector has long been lobbying for this change given that they are cheaper and offer almost instantaneous results. Citizens from any country where a coronavirus test is required before entry into Spain may now opt for an antigen test during the 48 hours prior to arrival.

Currently, residents of France and Germany must present a negative test on arrival in Spain. Given that these two countries are key markets for the Spanish tourism sector the fact that visitors can opt for antigen tests rather than PCRs will be a boost. Visitors from the United Kingdom, meanwhile, do not currently need to present any coronavirus test results given the low incidence of the virus in that country thanks to its advanced vaccination campaign. That said, Spain is on the UK’s “amber list” of countries, meaning that arrivals to the UK from Spain must quarantine for 10 days on arrival, as well as taking a PCR test before travel and two home tests once quarantining.

The European Commission called on Friday for caution with regard to the relaxation of coronavirus travel restrictions

Under the changes that have gone into force today, all tourists from the Schengen free-travel area will be able to enter Spain if they meet with the same requirements as the EU’s Digital Covid Certificate, which will go into use on July 1. That document will state whether the bearer has been vaccinated, if they have taken a PCR or antigen test, or whether they have recovered from a coronavirus infection. Proof of one of these three conditions will be considered valid until then.

For travelers from EU areas that are not included in the Health Ministry’s risk zones, no proof of vaccination, immunity or diagnostic test will be required, said the government. The same applies to tourists from non-EU countries that are on Spain’s low-risk zones. The list of risk zones is available here. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) offers updated coronavirus maps here.

The BOE also includes details for students. If they are studying in EU member states or associated Schengen states, “and they have the corresponding permission or visa for a long-term stay, provided that they are traveling to the country where they are going to study, and that they enter once the academic term has begun or 15 days previously,” they are allowed to enter. “If the destination is Spain and the duration of the stay is up to 90 days, they must accredit that their studies will take place in an authorized academic center in Spain,” the text continues.

These changes are being viewed with certain mistrust in Europe. The European Commission called on Friday for caution with regard to the relaxation of coronavirus travel restrictions. “It’s their responsibility, but we call for coherence for the good of European Union citizens,” stated the EC’s chief spokesperson, Éric Mamer, at a press conference in Brussels. According to Mamer, the joint EU recommendation, supported by the 27 member states, establishes that a negative PCR test must be requested of all travelers.

The change in the requirements for travelers was announced by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez last month at the Fitur tourism fair in Madrid. For his part, the secretary of state for tourism, Fernando Valdés, said on Saturday that Spain would be “receiving between 14.5 and 15.5 million tourists” during the months of July and September, Europa Press reports. Speaking on Catalunya Radio, the minister said that this would be around 40% of the tourists who arrived in 2019 but double those that came in 2020, the year that the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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