Spain will require travelers from UK to show diagnostic test or be fully vaccinated

The new rules, which will go into effect on Friday, come amid growing concern over the delta variant, and a large coronavirus outbreak linked to student vacations in Mallorca

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez during an interview with the Cadena SER radio network.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez during an interview with the Cadena SER radio network.Carles Ribas (EL PAÍS)

Starting on Friday, Spain will demand a negative diagnostic test (NAAT type, e.g. TMA, PCR, LAMP & NEAR, issued within 48 hours of arrival into Spain – antigen tests will not be accepted) or proof of full vaccination from UK travelers, due to concerns over the delta variant of the coronavirus. (Full information is available here at the gov.uk website.)

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Speaking in an interview on Monday with the Cadena SER radio network, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said: “The cumulative incidence rate in the United Kingdom has been progressing negatively during these last few weeks. It is far above 150 cases [per 100,000 inhabitants] in 14 days, and that is why we have to take an additional precaution with respect to the arrival of British tourists to our country.”

The Socialist (PSOE) leader said the new restrictions would come into effect “in 72 hours so that tour operators and British tourists are able to adapt to the new rules.” In a message on Twitter, Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha Gónzalez Laya later clarified that the new restrictions would be published in the Official State Gazette (BOE) on Tuesday, and come into force 72 hours after that on Friday.

The conditions will particularly affect travelers to the Balearic Islands, which are going on the UK’s green travel list on June 30. The archipelago is hoping to receive an influx of British visitors due to the eased restrictions. The rest of Spain will remain on the UK’s amber list, which requires quarantining upon return to the UK.

Although Sánchez specifically referred to the Balearic Islands in his statements because of the expected increase in British arrivals, the move affects travel by British nationals to all parts of Spain.

“We are going to apply to British tourists who travel to the Balearic Islands the same restrictions that we place on the rest of Europe: they will need either to be fully vaccinated or have a negative PCR test,” he told the Cadena SER radio network.

Arenal Beach in Palma de Mallorca in August 2020.
Arenal Beach in Palma de Mallorca in August 2020.Enrique Calvo (Reuters)

The requirements described by Sánchez for British visitors are not exactly the same as those governing travel across the European Union: in the latter space, besides proof of vaccination or a diagnostic test, it is also possible to show a certificate proving recovery from the coronavirus in the previous six months.

For British tourists, there are two possibilities: full vaccination with one of the vaccines authorized by the European Medicines Agency or the World Health Organization, with the second dose administered at least 14 days before travel; or a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours before arriving in Spain. This represents a change from Spain’s position, adopted a little over a month ago, when the UK was included on its list of countries whose nationals could freely enter the country.

This puts Spain in an intermediate position between what it had to date (restriction-free access for UK travelers) and what other European countries such as Germany want: a mandatory quarantine for UK passengers entering any EU territory, a restriction that Germany is already applying. Spain is openly rejecting this initiative because it would further damage its deteriorated tourism sector.

The Balearic Islands are the only Spanish region that will move to the UK government’s green list of countries and territories, which are considered safe for travel. As of June 30, travelers from the UK will not have to quarantine for 10 days upon their return, although they will still need to take a Covid-19 test on or before day two (and quarantine if the result is positive). A test is also required before travel.

The Balearics, which include the popular islands of Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera, have traditionally been an important destination for British tourists. In 2019, nearly four million of them spent time in the Mediterranean archipelago, mostly in Mallorca.

In 2019, nearly four million UK nationals spent time in the Mediterranean archipelago, mostly in Mallorca

The rest of Spain will remain on the UK’s amber list. Passengers arriving from amber list countries must quarantine at home or in the place they are staying for 10 days, and additionally take a Covid-19 test on or before day two and on or after day eight. A test is also required before travel.

The announcement of the new travel rules comes amid growing concern over the delta variant of the coronavirus, which accounts for 90% of cases in the UK, and according to the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), is forecast to account for 90% of all infections in Europe by the end of August.

According to the latest Health Ministry report on variants, the delta strain is responsible for less than 1% of cases in Spain, but experts warn that this data is out of date as it can take up to four weeks to sequence new infections.

The decision also comes as Spain struggles to contain a coronavirus outbreak linked to student vacations in Mallorca in the Balearic Islands. More than 800 cases in nine regions have so far been detected and more than 2,000 people are in quarantine. Last week, the coronavirus incidence rate rose for the first time since April 26. On Friday, the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants stood at 95, up from 92.25 on Tuesday.

English version by Melissa Kitson and Susana Urra.

Have you heard our Spanish news podcast ¿Qué? Each week we try to explain the curious, the under-reported and sometimes simply bizarre news stories that are often in the headlines in Spain.

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