Could fast-track coronavirus testing save Spain’s winter tourist season?

The summer has been a write off for Spain’s tourism industry thanks to the coronavirus pandemic but can the winter season be saved?

Could fast-track coronavirus testing save Spain’s winter tourist season?
Photo: AFP

Canary Islands’ tourism chiefs are pinning their hopes on a test that can give on the spot results in a bid to reassure tourists that visiting the archipelago is safe.

Spain’s Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto has pledged to introduce a policy of testing visitors to aid the creation of “travel corridors” and encourage winter sun seekers to visit the islands.  

On Thursday she announced that Spain would seek to collaborate with EU member countries to draw up new plans to enable tourists to return.

New protocols will be presented to the EU Commission by tourism chiefs on September 28th, she said.

Morato insisted that compulsory testing on arrival could enable safe travel and reduce the need for visitors to quarantine on their return.

The UK placed Spain on the quarantine list back in July after Spain saw a surge in cases that have now reached over half a million since the pandemic began.

Hoteliers on the Atlantic archipelago which is a hugely population winter sun destination and earns half of its annual tourism revenues during the winter months, are lobbying for fast-track testing on arrival and departure would see the travel warnings from UK and Germany lifted.


Tourists at Playa de las Americas on Tenerife. Photo: AFP 

 “There are tests that are faster and much cheaper than PCRs. There are frequent meetings about it”, a spokeswoman of the regional government tourist department told Reuters.

Cruise ships may also be welcomed back as early as October, if widespread on the spot testing can be introduced.

Earlier in the week, Spain's foreign minister Arancha González Laya announced plans to negotiate with other countries to distinguish between locations in Spain based on the evolution of the virus in Spain's different regions.

She wants Spain's islands to be treated separarely from the mainland when it comes to travel advice.

“Our wish is to restore the tourist flows as soon as possible,” she said hoping that the UK would consider lifting quarantine for those returning from resorts where there was a low incidence of cases.

“It is an extremely important issue for the Canary Islands which, unlike other Spanish territories, have a winter tourism season,” she said.


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US to end Covid testing requirement for travellers from Europe

Authorities in the USA have announced the end of the Covid-testing requirement for arrivals from Europe, meaning that fully vaccinated people will soon be able to travel between Europe and the US without needing pre-travel tests.

US to end Covid testing requirement for travellers from Europe

Most of Europe had dropped the testing requirement for fully-vaccinated arrivals in the spring, but the US has maintained the requirement to show proof of a negative test for all arrivals.

However on Friday, the Biden administration announced that it would not renew the testing requirement.

The new rule is expected to come into effect at 12.01 Sunday EDT, until then passengers will still need to show a negative Covid test before they can board a plane to the US.

The US currently bars unvaccinated travellers from entry – although this does not apply to US citizens, US residents or those travelling for essential reasons – there was no announcement on lifting this restriction. 

The CDC said that testing requirements could be reinstated if new variants of Covid emerge, and added that it continues to recommend pre-travel testing. 

Covid travel rules vary between individual countries in Europe, but most countries now only require pre-departure tests for unvaccinated travellers. Check the rules of the country you are travelling to for full details. 

To be counted as ‘fully vaccinated’ travellers must have received both doses of an EMA-approved vaccine – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca (or a single dose of Janssen).

If their vaccination was more than nine months ago, they need a booster shot in order to be considered fully vaccinated – people who have had a booster do not need a second, even if their booster shot was more than nine months ago.