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HEALTH

Coronavirus: Is it still safe to go on holiday to Tenerife?

With news that Coronavirus has been detected on the Canary Island of Tenerife, a popular holiday destination for those seeking winter sun, many readers are asking whether it’s safe to go.

Coronavirus: Is it still safe to go on holiday to Tenerife?
A man wears at mask at the airport in Tenerife. Photo: AFP

How many people have tested positive to COVID-19 on the island?

So far, four people have been confirmed to have the coronavirus. The first was an Italian doctor from the Lombardy region of northern Italy, a zone currently at the centre of an outbreak, who reported to a private clinic on Monday after recognising flu-like symptoms.

UPDATE: What we know so far about coronavirus in Spain

His wife and two friends who were holidaying with the couple were isolated because of the close contact and all three have since tested positive to the virus.

The group was staying at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel which as a result of the first confirmation was put on lockdown overnight on Monday to avoid further contagion.

Which hotels are affected?


Photo: AFP

As of Wednesday, February 26th the only place currently affected by the Coronavirus is a hotel on the southwest of the island  called the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel, a four star all-inclusive resort that is used by Jet2 and Tui holidays.

The hotel is currently on lockdown where guests are confined to their rooms although it has not officially been given “quarantine status”.

An estimated 800 guests and 200 staff are confined to the hotel which has been cordoned off by police to stop anyone unauthorised from entering or leaving its boundary.

This means that some of the guests have already missed their flights home. There have been reports from those inside that they have not been given information as to how long they can expect to be confined within the hotel or when they might be able to return home.

Those who are due to fly out to the island and are booked at that hotel should  be offered alternative accommodation by their booking agent.

READ ALSO:  

 

What do the holiday operators say?

In a statement email to The Local by Jet2 Holidays, a spokesperson said: “We are aware of reports that a non-Jet2holidays customer staying at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace in Tenerife has tested positive for coronavirus. Under the advice of the regional and the Spanish authorities, the hotel has been placed under quarantine.

“We have stopped all sales to the hotel, and customers who are due to travel to the hotel will be transferred to other accommodation.

“In line with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advice, our flying programme remains unchanged.

“The health and safety of our customers is our absolute priority, and we will continue to release more information as it becomes available.”

Tui, Britain's biggest holiday company, offered a similar statement.  “We’re aware of a reported case of Covid 19 (Coronavirus) at the H10 Palace Hotel in Costa Adeje, Tenerife. We can confirm that TUI has around 200 customers in the hotel from different countries.

“TUI representatives on Tenerife are liaising with our customers. All guests have been asked to remain in their rooms and are being looked after by the hotel. Our holiday programme to Tenerife continue to operate as planned for all other hotels,” the statement continued.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and are in contact with the hotel and local authorities. We will provide a further update as soon as we have more information. The welfare, health and safety of our customers and employees continues to be our top priority.”

Another spokesman added:  “For customers due to travel to the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel in the next 14 days, a member of our team will be proactively contacting you to discuss their booking, to offer a full refund or free amendment,” he said in an email to The Local.

“We’d like to reassure customers that this is an isolated case at this time. Currently the Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not advise against travel to Tenerife and therefore normal terms and conditions around cancellations and amendments apply. However, should the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice change, we will contact customers to discuss their options.”

So what do the British foreign office say?

Many of the visitors to the Canary Islands at this time of year are British tourists so what are the UK authorities saying about it?

Ambassador Hugh Elliott recorded a message specifically for those Brits trapped in the hotel offering support and contact numbers.

British consular staff are assisting those affected by the hotel lockdown.

An FCO spokesperson said:  “We are offering advice and support to a number of British people in a hotel in Tenerife, and their families. Our staff are in close contact with the hotel management and the Spanish authorities, have written to all British guests, and are in touch with anyone identified as vulnerable or in need. 

“Any British nationals who need support should contact the British Consulate in Tenerife on 0034 928 262 508.” 

Prof Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director, Public Health England, said:   “Public Health England has sent a health protection specialist to Tenerife to work with the Spanish authorities to better understand the public health measures that have been put in place in the hotel. This includes understanding spread of the virus within the hotel and how the Spanish authorities are monitoring the situation.” 

While British authorities have updated their travel advice on Italy warning “against all but essential travel to 10 small towns in Lombardy and one in Veneto, which have been isolated by the Italian authorities due to an ongoing outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19)”, no such warning has been issued for Spain.

The FCO page for travel to Spain acknowledges that the coronavirus has been detected there and advises: “You should comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the authorities.”

So travel advice to the Canary Islands and Spain as a whole remains unchanged.

But what if you want to cancel, can you claim cost from travel insurance?

As a general rule, if there is no official warning against travel to a destination, your decision will be classed as “disinclination to travel” – which is not covered by standard travel insurance policies.

I’m nervous because I’m high risk.

You will have read that the vast majority of people who contract the coronavirus make a full recovery and that is no more deadly that a common bout of flu.

But those people who are at highest risk of complications are elderly travellers and those with pre-exisiting medical conditions such as respiratory problems or a weakened immune system.

So if you feel nervous about taking the rish check your travel insurance policy and whether it takes account of your age and/or pre-existing conditions (it will have cost you extra on top of the standard cover).

If your doctor advises against travel then you may be eligible to make a claim.  

However, coronavirus may fall into the category of “known risk” depending  on when you took out the travel insurance and booked the holiday. If that falls before late January when the risk of coronavirus became widely known then  you may be covered.

For more information from the Spanish authorities, see the Spanish Ministry of Health website.

Further advice on coronavirus is available from Public Health England and on the TravelHealthPro website.

READ MORE: 

 

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COVID-19

Spain rules out EU’s advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 

Spain’s Health Ministry said Thursday there will be no mandatory vaccination in the country following the European Commission’s advice to Member States to “think about it” and Germany’s announcement that it will make vaccines compulsory in February.

Spain rules out EU's advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 
A Spanish man being vaccinated poses with a custom-made T-shirt showing Spain's chief epidimiologist Fernando Simón striking a 'Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood' pose over the words "What part of keep a two-metre distance don't you understand?' Photo: José Jordan

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday told journalists Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be voluntary in Spain given the “very high awareness of the population” with regard to the benefits of vaccination.

This follows the words of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, urging Member States to “think about mandatory vaccination” as more cases of the Omicron variant are detected across Europe. 

READ ALSO: Is Spain proving facts rather than force can convince the unvaccinated?

“I can understand that countries with low vaccine coverage are contemplating this and that Von der Leyen is considering opening up a debate, but in our country the situation is absolutely different,” Darias said at the press conference following her meeting with Spain’s Interterritorial Health Council.

According to the national health minister,  this was also “the general belief” of regional health leaders of each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities she had just been in discussion with over Christmas Covid measures. 

READ MORE: Spain rules out new restrictions against Omicron variant

Almost 80 percent of Spain’s total population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a figure which is around 10 percent higher if looking at those who are eligible for the vaccine (over 12s). 

It has the highest vaccination rate among Europe’s most populous countries.

Germany announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in a bid to contain its fourth wave of Covid-19 aimed largely at the country’s unvaccinated people, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking in favour of compulsory vaccinations, which the German parliament is due to vote on soon.

Austria has also already said it will make Covid-19 vaccines compulsory next February, Belgium is also considering it and Greece on Tuesday said it will make vaccination obligatory for those over 60.

But for Spain, strict Covid-19 vaccination rules have never been on the table, having said from the start that getting the Covid-19 jabs was voluntary. 

There’s also a huge legal implication to imposing such a rule which Spanish courts are unlikely to look on favourably. 

Stricter Covid restrictions and the country’s two states of alarm, the first resulting in a full national lockdown from March to May 2020, have both been deemed unconstitutional by Spain’s Constitutional Court. 

READ ALSO: Could Spain lock down its unvaccinated or make Covid vaccines compulsory?

The Covid-19 health pass to access indoor public spaces was also until recently consistently rejected by regional high courts for breaching fundamental rights, although judges have changed their stance favouring this Covid certificate over old Covid-19 restrictions that affect the whole population.

MAP: Which regions in Spain now require a Covid health pass for daily affairs?

“In Spain what we have to do is to continue vaccinating as we have done until now” Darias added. 

“Spaniards understand that vaccines are not only a right, they are an obligation because we protect others with them”.

What Spanish health authorities are still considering is whether to vaccinate their 5 to 11 year olds after the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency, with regions such as Madrid claiming they will start vaccinating their young children in December despite there being no official confirmation from Spain’s Vaccine Committee yet.

READ MORE: Will Spain soon vaccinate its children under 12?

Spain’s infection rate continues to rise day by day, jumping 17 points up to 234 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday. There are now also five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the country, one through community transmission.

Hospital bed occupancy with Covid patients has also risen slightly nationwide to 3.3 percent, as has ICU Covid occupancy which now stands at 8.4 percent, but the Spanish government insists these figures are “almost three times lower” than during previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic.

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