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Do I need to cancel my trip to Spain because of coronavirus spread?

As Spain considers steps to stop the spread of coronavirus, many visitors have been cancelling travel plans. Here's the latest information to help you make your mind up about what to do.

Do I need to cancel my trip to Spain because of coronavirus spread?
Passengers at El Prat airport in Barcelona. Illustration photo: AFP

What has been the impact of coronavirus on tourism?

The death toll from coronavirus in Spain is rising as is the number of confirmed cases, but the Spanish government has sought to calm fears among tourists. 

The Spanish government has voiced concern at the effect the outbreak might have on its tourism industry, which accounts for 14.8 percent of its gross national product. Some 18 million holidaymakers headed here last year, making it the second most popular destination in the world after France.

The tourism industry has already suffered “significant cancellations”, according to Jorge Marichal, president of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Apartments. He said reservations had fallen between 20 and 30 percent. 

The worst affected areas are the Costa Brava, Costa Blanca, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands and Madrid. Hotel associations said reservations were down 24 percent in Madrid and about 20 percent in Barcelona though other tourist bodies said cancellations were lower. 

However, the Spanish government is concerned about the economic damage which the outbreak could do. 

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Carmen Calvo, the deputy prime minister, told Radio Nacional de España: “This situation will continue for some time and we have a great deal of our GBP in tourism.”

Spain has not brought in any measures to restrict the movement of tourists except those confined to the H10 Costa Adeje Palace hotel in Tenerife where 700 holidaymakers were kept in their rooms after an Italian doctor tested positive for coronavirus last month. Some 643 have left after testing negative and 16 tested positive. 

Are there any travel restrictions in place?

So far there are no travel restrictions anyway inside Spain or at the country's borders.

Some flights to the country have been cancelled but this is more due to airlines suffering a steep fall in demand for flights due to the impact of the virus.

In airports, there have been advisory literature posted for travellers to see about how to avoid contracting coronavirus but no restriction on travel. 

On bus and rail travel no restrictions have been imposed. 
 
However, the government has advised transport companies to reduce to the minimum the number of journeys to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. 
 
Of course things could change rapidly and the government may draw up new measures that impact on travel.
 

What do other countries now advise?

Most countries have urged caution for those planning to visit Spain but have said the risk is moderate.

The US has advised that Spain has confirmed cases of COVID-19 within its borders but said the health authorities said the risk to public health was moderate. 

Meanwhile the British government in its official advice said there had been confirmed cases of coronavirus but said the risk was moderate. 

On the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website, it advised: “There is an ongoing outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in China, but cases have been confirmed in other countries, including Spain. You should comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the authorities.

“The Spanish authorities are dealing with confirmed cases of coronavirus in the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel in Tenerife. If you’re in this hotel, you should follow the advice of the local authorities.”

Many cases which have been diagnosed have been linked to recent travel to Italy, a country with which Spain has close economic and social ties.

The sharp rise in cases over the weekend in Spain has prompted suggestions that other countries may start taking measures to prevent Spaniards spreading coronavirus. 

Fernando Simón, the head of health emergency in Spain, said: “Spain is a country of local transmission from cases which have been imported and in two zones we are not clear how the virus is being transmitted. 

“This means that some countries could put Spain in the list of countries in which you have take precautions against its citizens.” 

Make sure you check with your government before travelling to find out what restrictions you could face.

With Easter only three weeks away, a major tourist attraction will be the religious processions traditionally held in southern cities but these may be affected or cancelled.

It's worth noting that the World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend that countries impose travel restrictions on affected areas, given that travel bans require valuable public resources to enforce and may discourage people from reporting new infections.

What do I need to know if I get ill in Spain?

The Health Ministry offers extensive advice which is available in English (the website is in Spanish but there is an app included which allows instant translation to English).

The main number for health advice on coronavirus is 112 and advice is available in English.

Health authorities say: “If you have been in areas of risk or have had close contact with someone infected, you must contact 112 who will organise a professional to meet you to take samples. It is better not to go to the emergency room of a hospital, because there they run risk of infecting people.”

Spanish health officials are advising people to practice good basic hygiene to keep themselves protected.

  • Wash hands your thoroughly and often with soap and water, especially after coughing and sneezing or before eating or it you have been touching surfaces that many other people will have touched such as on the Metro
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Cover your mouth with your elbow when coughing
  • Use disposable tissues and throw them away after use
  • Clean off surfaces with alcohol- or chlorine-based disinfectants.
  • They insist that protective face masks are not necessary unless you have symptoms or are treating someone who has symptoms.

According to the WHO, around 80 percent of people who contract the new coronavirus recover without needing special treatment.

Around 1 out of every six people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

Only around 3.4 percent of people with the disease have died.

By Graham Keeley

 

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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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