Spain extends coronavirus restrictions on travel from United Kingdom

Ban on non-resident arrivals is pushed to February 2, and a grace period for proving residency has expired. But passengers whose flights were delayed by the snowstorm will not need a new PCR

Passengers affected by travel disruptions caused by Storm Filomena will not need to take a new PCR test.
Passengers affected by travel disruptions caused by Storm Filomena will not need to take a new PCR test.Jesús Hellín (Europa Press)

The Spanish government has extended its restrictions on air and sea arrivals from the United Kingdom until February 2 at 6pm. Only flights and ships carrying Spanish or Andorran citizens or official residents of those two territories will be allowed in, said Health Minister Salvador Illa on Tuesday evening following the weekly Cabinet meeting. Andorra is a microstate nestled between Spain and France.

Authorities cited the epidemiological situation in Britain and concerns about the new strain of the coronavirus first detected in the UK as the reasons for this latest extension.

“The epidemiological situation in the UK has grown progressively worse, and now shows a cumulative 14-day incidence of 1,031 cases per 100,000 [inhabitants]. This situation, together with the detection in Spain of cases involving the new variant, make it necessary to keep the measures in place until their impact on the evolution of the pandemic is known, especially the ways in which it could affect our country,” said the government in a statement.

The travel limit was first introduced on December 22, then extended on December 29 for a period due to end on January 19. The newest extension pushes the deadline to February 2, but leaves a door open to an earlier ending date.

“Depending on how the situation and the pandemic evolve, and especially on what decisions might be taken in a coordinated way in the European Union, the Health Ministry could lift these limitations before the end of the period,” added the government statement.

PCR tests for delayed flights

The Spanish Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday evening that because of the travel disruptions caused by Storm Filomena in Spain, passengers with expiring PCR tests will not be asked to produce a new one to meet the 72-hour requirement.

“With regard to the delays/cancellations/reprogramming of flights due to the snow storm in Spain, affected travelers from risk countries will not be required to do a new PCR,” said the ministry in a tweet.

Passengers arriving in Spanish airports are required to have taken a PCR test or equivalent alternatives within 72 hours prior to arrival.

TIE receipt grace period expires

Legal residents of Spain planning to fly back from the UK should be aware that a grace period has ended for those who have applied for residency papers but have yet to receive their official documents.

Due to confusion over changes caused by Brexit, the Spanish Foreign Ministry recently confirmed that the only documents currently being accepted as evidence of residency are either the recently created Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE) biometric identity card, or else the green residency certificate (either the credit card-sized version or the A4 page).

But from January 4 to 10, authorities were also accepting proof of application to receive or renew TIE cards, a receipt known in Spanish as “resguardo de solicitud o renovación de tarjeta de extranjero.”

This document was considered acceptable evidence for flying to Spain, even though in practice there were many cases of Spain-bound passengers who were refused boarding in the UK during the first days of January due to airline confusion regarding permitted travel documents.

Travel to UK: new requirement

Faced with a new surge in coronavirus cases, British authorities this week announced new pre-departure testing requirements for travelers to England. The British Embassy in Spain noted that the rule also applies to Scotland.

“From 4am on 15 January, we will be introducing pre-departure testing requirements for all inbound passengers to England. Passengers arriving by ship, plane or train will have to take a test up to three days before departure and provide evidence of a negative result before they travel,” the Department for Transport said in a statement, although the British government later changed the start date for the requirement to 4am on January 18.

“This will be an additional requirement that applies to all passengers, including those travelling from a travel corridor country, other than those on a very short list of exemptions. This extra layer of protection is in addition to existing self-isolation requirements,” added the note.

The department said it would provide clear guidance and advice to passengers regarding testing standards and capacity. It mentioned PCR tests and said that accepted tests “could in some cases include LAMP and lateral flow tests within set limits.”

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