Just ahead of the half-term week for many UK schools, Spain has dropped its hard-line approach to unvaccinated British visitors. It follows the promise last Thursday by the tourism minister, Reyes Maroto, that plans were imminent for allowing in unjabbed adults from third countries such as the UK if they can produce a negative Covid test.
These are the key questions and answers.
What’s the background?
While unvaccinated EU citizens have been able to holiday in Spain with proof of a negative test, many UK travellers have been excluded until now.
British adults who do not comply with Spanish rules for vaccination have been refused entry, unless they can produce an approved certificate of recent recovery from Covid.
Children aged 11 or under faced no restrictions, while those aged 12-17 could take a Covid test.
In early April, the Spanish tourist office in London announced the country would open up to all UK travellers with immediate effect, adding that unjabbed visitors would be able to enter with a negative pre-departure test.
But eight hours later they reversed the announcement: travellers were told this was incorrect, and that the update had resulted from an error of interpretation of an official state bulletin.
As other Mediterranean nations relaxed their coronavirus travel restrictions over the past few weeks, the Spanish requirements for UK travellers looked increasingly onerous and out of step with the rest of Europe. For example, Greece has no Covid-19 restrictions.
Now any unvaccinated British visitor aged 12 or above can enter Spain with proof of a negative coronavirus test – which can be a relatively cheap and quick rapid antigen (lateral flow) test taken within the 24 hours before departure.
Travellers are urged to take a medically conducted and officially certified test.
NHS lateral flow tests may not be used.
How can I tell if I am counted as fully vaccinated?
Spain’s definition of fully vaccinated follows the European Union standard: an initial course of jabs completed less than 270 days (almost nine months) earlier, or a booster – with no time limit on the latter’s effectiveness. Such travellers are able to use the fast “orange lane” upon arrival. Others must use the “blue lane”.
For people aged 12-17, the original course has no expiry date (so no proof of booster is needed). The Spanish health ministry says: “The vaccination certificate with a complete schedule for people under 18 years of age does not have an expiration date.”
Is there a travel form to fill in?
Fully vaccinated travellers need present only their NHS documentation showing their status to travel to Spain. But those who are not jabbed – or whose vaccinations have lapsed – must complete the Spanish “Health Control Form”.
Successful applicants will be sent a QR code which, along with a certified test result, should allow them to board a plane or ship destined for Spain.
How important is this?
Very. Before the coronavirus pandemic Spain was by far the most popular international destination for British travellers. In 2019, the nation welcomed 18.1 million visitors from the UK – an average of 50,000 arrivals per day.
I am changing planes in Madrid en route to Latin America. Do the new Spanish requirements apply to me?
The rules do not apply to British passengers who transit through Spain. As long as they remain “airside” at the airport they need only meet the travel requirements for their final destination.