What you need to know about Spain’s new quarantine rules for travellers

On Tuesday the Spanish government announced new measures that will see travellers quarantined on arrival in Spain.

What you need to know about Spain’s new quarantine rules for travellers
Photos: AFP

Here’s a breakdown of everything we know so far about the new measures and the rules on travelling into Spain during the coronavirus crisis.

From Friday May 15 until end of the state of emergency

The new measures were published in Spain’s Official State Gazette (BOE) on Tuesday morning and stated that from Friday May 15 travellers arriving in Spain will be expected to undergo a quarantine period of 14 days.

The order will be in place as long as the state of emergency lasts.

A state of emergency was first declared on March 14th in Spain, allowing the government to roll out confinement measures for its nearly 47 million citizens.   

Since then it has been extended four times, with the approval of Spain’s parliament and is currently due to run out on May 23, although Spain’s government have suggested they want to extend the powers to cover Spain’s plan to transition to a new normal which could see it in place until at least the middle of June.



What exactly do they mean by quarantine?

Anyone coming into Spain either by land border or through an airport or sea port will be told to self- isolate, that is stay at home without coming into contact with other people, for a period of 14 days.

However, the restrictions are much the same as those imposed on everyone in Spain during the lockdown (that is before Spain moved to the preparatory Phase 0 stage of the government calls the “plan to transition to a new normal”).


That is, those quarantined will still be allowed to leave the house in order to buy essential things such as food from the supermarket or medicine from the pharmacy or to seek medical assistance with the condition that a face-mask is worn outside the home at all times.

They won’t be allowed outside to take exercise even if they live in a Phase 0 province or to enjoy any of the activities allowed within a Phase 1 province.


Where will people be quarantined?

The BOE stated that new arrivals will have to self-isolate either within their own homes or rented accommodation, although it did not make clear whether accommodation would be provided by the state if the traveller did not have suitable lodgings in which to self-isolate.

There is no suggestion that new arrivals will be isolated in a hotel or other facility such as has been seen in other countries that introduced quarantine.

Are there exceptions?

Yes, exemptions include cross-border workers, long-haul truckers, airplane crews and health professionals on their way to work, as long as they have not been in contact with anyone diagnosed with Covid-19.

It also seems probable that those transiting through Spain – ie those travelling across Spain from Portugal to France, will be allowed to do without the need to quarantine as long as they drive direct across the country and make minimum stops. More on that below.

What checks will be made?

According to the BOE, health authorities may contact individuals in quarantine to check on their health status.

Travel agencies and transportation companies will have to inform customers about quarantine requirements when travel arrangements are made.

And airlines must provide customers with a Passenger Location Card to be filled out and presented to authorities when they enter Spain.

Meanwhile anyone who develops symptoms is instructed to contact their regional health services.

So is Spain open to tourists now, as long as they quarantine?

The answer is no. The new announcement does not mean that Spain is opening up its borders to international travellers.

Currently the borders, both land and air, are closed to all except Spanish citizens, those who are legally resident in Spain, cross-border workers or those who can prove “exceptional reason” to enter Spain.

The borders have been closed since March 17th and that order was exented until May 23 with the current deadline for the end of the state of alarm in a notice published on the BOE on May 8th. 

At the moment people in Spain are not even allowed to travel between provinces, although they are allowed to travel around their own province if it has advanced into Phase 1.

Does it apply to those who want to travel to their holiday home in Spain?

Unfortunately, travel to Spain remains limited to those who are Spanish or legally resident in Spain or to those who have reason to enter for work or in exceptional circumstances described as “force majeure”.

In a recent facebook post British Consul in Barcelona, Lloyd Millen confirmed that British Nationals with homes in Spain had been turned away at the border, both land and at the airport, because they didn’t have the proper paperwork to prove residency. 

The Local sought clarification from the British Embassy in Madrid as to whether the latest quarantine rules would affect that policy.

A spokesperson said: “At this time the rules around entering Spain are very strict. Only Spanish citizens, those who are legally resident here, frontier workers or those who can prove they need to enter Spain for essential reasons will be allowed to enter the country.

“This applies to airports, ports and land borders. If you want to enter to return to your home here you must have a green residency certificate to prove your residence. Anything else, such as a padron certificate or utility bill, will not be accepted and we would advise you not to try. It is for the Spanish authorities to determine who can enter the country and we cannot guarantee that you will be able to enter Spain.”

Finally they added: “If you are eligible to enter Spain you will need to abide by the 14-day quarantine restrictions announced by the Spanish government, which take effect from Friday.”


What if I want to transit Spain?

One reader who is planning on driving home to the UK from Portugal where they were when the country was locked down asked whether they would be required to quarantine in Spain. 

Just as the borders with Spain are open to those transiting the country in order to reach their place of residence, it is understood that quarantine rules will not apply to transit travellers.

The updated travel advice from the the UK Foreign Office on the Portugal page states: 

“There are border controls on the land border with Spain. Cross border workers, goods traffic and people entering or leaving Portugal to return to their place of residence will be allowed to travel.

“From 15 May, anyone entering Spain, including Spanish nationals and residents, will be required to self-isolate in their residence or a hotel for a period of 14 days. Cross-border workers, lorry drivers, healthcare professionals and people transiting Spain to return to their normal place of residence will be exempt from this measure.”

However, it advises those travelling through Spain to providence evidence of onward travel (ie ferry booking) as well as a letter in English, Spanish and French to help explain their journey to border authorities. That documentation can be downloaded HERE

The French government have also implemented measures for entering and transiting through France, including the requirement to carry documentation justifying your travel. Check the latest travel advice for France ahead of your journey. 

For FCO updates on travel in Spain click here.


Why haven’t they done it already?

The only imposed quarantine on new arrivals has been those Spanish citizens who were formally repatriated by the state from hotspots including Wuhan and Italy. But with the whole of Spain on strict lockdown since March 14, anyone who arrived in the country after that date was effectively quarantined along with everyone else in the country.

The reason that it is being introduced now is because restrictions have been lifted to allow people to exercise outside, visit small businesses and for those who live within Phase 1 provinces, meetings between friends and families from different households is now permitted.

How does it compare to rules in other parts of Europe? 

The BOE order notes that several members of the Schengen area (22 European Union members plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). already have restrictions in place at their air and maritime borders, including Germany and Belgium.

France has proposed a mandatory two-week quarantine – although on Sunday the presidency made it clear it would not apply to anyone coming into the country from the UK, the EU or Schengen area.

READ MORE:  LATEST: France says quarantine plan won't apply to people arriving from UK, EU or Schengen area


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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.