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TOURISM

Canary Islands added to safe list for UK and Germany

Holidaymakers looking for winter sun will be allowed to visit the Canary Islands without needing to quarantine on their return after the UK and Germany lifted the archipelago from the danger list.

Canary Islands added to safe list for UK and Germany
Photos: AFP

The news will come as a huge boost to the Canary Islands whose authorities have long been lobbying to be treated differently from mainland Spain which has the highest infection rate in Europe.

The 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases in Spain stands at 349 cases per 100,000 inhabitants while the islands have a recorded incidence rate of 82 cases per 100,000 inhabitants

The Canary Islands can now open up in time for October half term and prepare for the winter tourism season after suffering a devastating spring and summer.

Beyond having to fill in passenger locator forms and have a temperature check on arrival, visitors to the Canaries currently face no restrictions to entry.

The UK placed Spain on the quarantine list back in July after Spain saw a surge in cases which have now reached over a million since the pandemic began. The rest of Spain, including the Balearic Islands, remain subject to quarantine restrictions with travellers obliged to quarantine for 14 days on their return.

Tourism accounts for about 35 percent of the Canary's economic output and half of the annual tourism revenues come during the winter months, with tourists from Britain accounting for about a third of all visitors.

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Travel companies, which have seen demand slump due to the quarantine rules, welcomed the decision on the Canaries.

“The Canaries are a hugely important market for winter travel – representing over 50% of bookings for some tour operators – so this is very welcome news for the whole sector,” industry body Airlines UK told the BBC.

Andrew Flintham, managing director of TUI, said the holiday operator had not been able to take people on a holiday to the Canaries for 89 days.

“We're therefore delighted that UK flights will now resume from Saturday 24 October. The first flights will depart to Fuerteventura and Lanzarote this weekend, with many more added in the coming days.”

Announcing the news on Thursday, Hugh Elliott, the British Ambassador in Madrid said:

“We have announced today that the Canary Islands will be added to the UK's Travel Corridors list. This means that, from 4am this Sunday, 25th October, if you are travelling back to the UK from the Canary Islands you will no longer have to self-isolate on arrival. You will still be required to show a passenger locator form on arrival, unless you fall into a small group of exemptions.

“We have also updated our travel advice for the Canary Islands, which are now exempt from the FCDO's global advisory against non-essential travel,” he explained.

“This decision follows the Joint Biosecurity Centre's latest risk assessment for the Canary Islands, which indicates that the risk to UK public health has decreased to an acceptable level. And I'd like to congratulate and to thank the island authorities for the great efforts that they have made to contain the pandemic and which have been crucial in making this decision possible.


“We know how much tourism matters to Spain and the Canary Islands, as well as to the many UK nationals who visit every year, especially during the winter months. But Coronavirus is still a significant challenge for all of us, so if you do travel, please ensure you comply with local regulations, such as social distancing and wearing masks,” he said. 

 

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TOURISM

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.

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