What tourists in Spain should know if they are caught up in a new coronavirus outbreak

As the number of outbreaks of COVID-19 grew across Spain, regional authorities were imposing restrictions and localised lockdowns. Here is what tourists can do if they find themselves caught themselves in the middle of an outbreak.

What tourists in Spain should know if they are caught up in a new coronavirus outbreak

Can I leave an area if a lockdown is imposed?

As in Lleida and Lugo, where lockdowns have been imposed, the authorities gave a margin of time for non-residents and tourists to leave the affected area. However, the decision depends on each of Spain's 17 regional governments. They will judge it according to the level of infection.

What should I do if I leave an area which has been put on lockdown?

Health authorities recommend tourists remain alert to any signs of symptoms and maintain social distancing. Symptoms include coughing, difficulty breathing and high temperature.

Do authorities have special areas for tourists to stay if they test positive for coronavirus?

Each regional authority must provide a place for tourists to stay if they test positive. In some cases, these are hotels, sports areas or conference halls which have been made available to the authority.

What happens if I have an apartment or hotel reserved and I cannot go there because of COVID-19?

Tourists are entitled to protection under the law, according to Rubén Sánchez, spokesman for the consumers' group Facua. “If for any reason someone cannot take advantage of a reservation, they have the right to get their money back if it is linked to the pandemic. They do not have to accept vouchers.”

What happens if the hotel or travel company cancels the reservation? Do you have a right to get all your money back?

If the company has to cancel the booking because it is related to coronavirus, the situation is similar. – it must return all the money, said Mr Sánchez. However, if an airline has to cancel a flight because there are not enough passengers and it notifies the client less than 14 days before the flight, customers are also entitled to compensation.

How long are the localised lockdowns lasting?

It depends on the evolution of the infection. In Segria in western Catalonia, because cases have risen, the lockdown could last two weeks or more. In A Mariña, in northern Spain, as the number of infections is descending, it is expected to last five days.

If you cannot work from home during a localised lockdown, what do you do?

Employers must provide letters if you must travel outside the lockdown zone to prove that you need to enter and return to the area.  

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The architect trying to finish the Sagrada Familia after 138 years

Jordi Faulí is the seventh chief architect of Barcelona's iconic Sagrada Familia since Antoni Gaudi began work on the basilica in 1883, and he had been expected to oversee its long-awaited completion.

The architect trying to finish the Sagrada Familia after 138 years
Jordi Faulí is the seventh architect director of the Sagrada Familia following Antoni Gaudi and, for many, the one destined to finish it. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

But the pandemic has delayed efforts to finish this towering architectural masterpiece, which has been under construction for nearly 140 years, and it is no longer clear whether Faulí will still be in charge when it is finally done.

“I would like to be here for many more years, of course, but that’s in God’s hands,” says Faulí, 62, a wry smile on his lips.

He was just 31 when he joined the architectural team as a local in 1990 — the same age as Gaudi when the innovative Catalan architect began building his greatest work in the late 19th century, a project that would take up four decades of his life.

“When I arrived, only three of these columns were built and they were only 10 metres (33 feet) high,” he explains from a mezzanine in the main nave.

“I was lucky enough to design and see the construction of the entire interior, then the sacristy and now the main towers.”

When finished, the ornate cathedral which was designed by Gaudi will have 18 towers, the tallest of which will reach 172 metres into the air.

READ ALSO: Pandemic to delay completion fate for Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia

The second-highest tower, which is 138 metres tall and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, will be officially inaugurated on Wednesday with the illumination of the gigantic 5.5-tonne star crowning its highest point.

It is the tallest of the nine completed towers and the first to be inaugurated since 1976.

The long-awaited completion of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia will no longer happen in 2026 because the coronavirus epidemic has curtailed its construction and frustrated funding, basilica officials admitted. Photo: Pau Barrena/AFP
Construction halted by Civil War

In 2019, the Sagrada Familia welcomed 4.7 million visitors, making it Barcelona’s most visited monument.

But it was forced to close in March 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, with its doors staying shut for almost a year.

This year, there have been barely 764,000 visitors, municipal figures show.

And as entry tickets are the main source of funding for the ongoing building works, the goal of finishing the basilica by 2026 to mark the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death — he was run over by a tram — has been abandoned.

“We can’t give any estimate as to when it will be finished because we don’t know how visitor numbers will recover in the coming years,” Faulí says.

It is far from the first time Gaudi’s masterpiece has faced such challenges.

During the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s, construction work stopped and many of Gaudi’s design plans and models were destroyed.

For critics, this major loss means they do not view what was built later as Gaudi’s work, despite the research carried out by his successors.

READ ALSO: Central spire will make the Sagrada Familia tallest church in the world

UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, has only granted World Heritage status to the Sagrada Familia’s crypt and one of its facades, both of which were built during Gaudi’s lifetime.

But Faulí insists the project remains faithful to what Gaudi had planned as it is based on the meticulous study of photographs, drawings and testimony from the late Modernist architect.

UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, has only granted World Heritage status to the Sagrada Familia’s crypt and one of its facades, both of which were built during Gaudi’s lifetime. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

Some local opposition

Nominated chief architect of the project in 2012, Faulí took over at the head of a team of 27 architects and more than 100 builders.

Today, there are five architects and some 16 builders working to finish the Sagrada Familia.

“It is a lot of responsibility because it’s an iconic project, which many people have an opinion about,” says Faulí.

Building such a vast monument which draws huge numbers of visitors is not welcomed by everyone, with some arguing that the hoards of visiting tourists are destroying the area.

Many also oppose plans to build an enormous staircase leading up to the main entrance, the construction of which will involve the demolition of several buildings, forcing hundreds to relocate.

“My life is here and they want to throw me out,” says one sign on a balcony near the Sagrada Familia.

Faulí said he understands their concerns and wants to find “fair solutions” through dialogue.

And if he could ask Gaudi one question? Faulí pauses to reflect for a few moments.

“I would ask him about his underlying intentions and what feelings he wanted to communicate through his architecture,” he says.