THE news earlier this week that Spain would be ready from June to open to tourism to not just those within the EU but also British holiday makers and international tourists was hugely welcomed.
But what does it really mean? Can Brits book a holiday in Spain for June and be sure of being allowed to travel? And can Americans think about coming over for a summer tour?
Here’s what we know so far:
On Monday, Spain’s Secretary of State for tourism insisted that the nation “would be ready” to welcome international tourists under a digital health certificate that would show they are free of Covid.
Fernando Valdes explained at the World Travel and Tourism Congress in Cancun, Mexico, that the EU-wide scheme would be trialled at airports across Spain during the month of May and would be ready to go by the start of June.
This follows comments from Minister Reyes Maroto said on Monday that the current situation relating to the covid pandemic and vaccination roll-out would permit the authorities to start considering the option of once more opening up to national and international travel from June.
Travel within EU-bloc
If all goes to plan the green certificates that have been given the go ahead by the EU that will ease travel within the bloc could be in place by June but we haven’t yet been given firm dates.
The pilot test Valdes mentioned on Monday is part of a Europe wide trial being carried out during May ahead of introducing the digital green certificate scheme, so it does rather depend on agreement across the bloc rather than a unilateral decision by Spain to allow open up.
According to plans unveiled by the EU, the scheme will see travellers declared free of Covid-19 issued with “Digital Green Certificates” which will allow them to travel throughout the European Union without the need to produce a negative PCR test or undergo quarantine.
“When travelling, every EU citizen or third-country national legally staying or residing in the EU, who holds a Digital Green Certificate, should be exempted from free movement restrictions in the same way as citizens from the visited Member State,” the commission states on its website.
Alfredo Gonzalez, the general secretary of Digital Health, Information and Innovation at Spain’s Health Ministry has explained that these certificates would be either in a digital or paper format and would include a QR code that contains each traveller’s essential information as well as whether they had been vaccinated or recently recovered from coronavirus (within the last 180 days).
We don’t yet know how health authorities in Spain will issue certificates proving immunity to Covid, this will have to be established before any such scheme could be introduced.
The vaccination programme is being rolled out differently in each of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, with Health authorities
In some regions of Spain people have already been issued a ‘certificate’ when they receive a jab while people in other regions have no personal record of their vaccination, although it will be recorded on their medical records.
The digital green certificates proposed by the EU will only be for use within the bloc by anyone who is a citizen of an EU nation or a resident there.
But this “vaccine passport” scheme isn’t immediately going to allow in travellers from outside the European Union.
Warning against going it alone
European Union countries introducing their own COVID vaccination certificates would be left with a dangerous myriad of disjointed solutions if the 27-nation bloc fails to build a joint system, a senior official warned on Wednesday.
“If we can deliver politically, the technical solution will be ready in time. If we don’t, we risk fragmentation across Europe, with a multitude of possibly incompatible national solutions,” EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said.
“We would risk having a variety of documents that cannot be read and verified in other member states. And we risk the spread of forged documents, and with it, the spread of both the virus and the mistrust of citizens,” he told the European Parliament.
Bilateral scheme with UK?
It has been on the negotiating table for months, and on Monday it was reiterated by Secretary of State for Tourism Fernando Valdes who said Spain was pushing for vaccine passport to be “mutually recognised” between Spain and UK.
Valdes insisted Spain could introduce a “green” corridor for vaccinated British travellers in a bid to boost its tourism sector, which relies on the 18 million annual visitors from the UK in normal years before the pandemic hit.
But such a deal as yet to be announced.
The UK has announced its own ‘green corridor’ plan that could allow foreign travel from as early as mid-May without the need for compulsory quarantine on return but only from those countries considered low risk.
As Spain’s vaccination progress is far behind the UK and its infection rates are once again on the rise, it is as yet unclear whether Spain would make it on the list as a green lighted destination.
What about other non-European travellers?
As Spain is part of the EU, it follows the general rules put in place by Brussels, and this currently means that all non-essential from third countries is banned except those appearing on the following list:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity
Currently all non-essential travel between the US and Europe is banned both by the EU and the USA itself.
But earlier this month, there were reports that the Biden administration was considering lifting the travel ban for citizens wanting to visit Europe in mid-May.
This could raise the chances of a reciprocal agreement with US citizens allowed to travel to Spain and the rest of the EU under a vaccine passport scheme.
In addition Spain has imposed a travel ban on those arriving directly from the high risk areas of Brazil, South Africa and only Spanish citizens or those with residency in Spain are allowed to arrive from those countries.
Spain also has imposed compulsory quarantine on anyone who has travelled from India.
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