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Catalonia mulls weekend lockdowns to contain coronavirus as Aragon shuts borders

Spain's Catalonia region said Monday it was studying imposing a lockdown on weekends to fight the spread of the coronavirus, a day after nighttime curfew came into effect across the country.

Catalonia mulls weekend lockdowns to contain coronavirus as Aragon shuts borders
View of an empty street during strict lockdown in March. Photo: AFP

“It is a scenario which is on the table because it is during the weekend that there are more social interactions,” the spokeswoman for the regional government, Meritxell Budo, told Catalan public radio.

Infections have soared in recent days in the wealthy northeastern region, home to around 7.5 million people, as well as the rest of Spain, which last week became the first European Union nation to surpass one million confirmed
Covid-19 cases.   

To try to curb the infection rate Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Sunday declared a national state of emergency, and a curfew covering all of Spain except the Canary Islands where infections are lower.

He has said the government wants to avoid a repeat of the nationwide lockdown put in place in March during the first wave of the pandemic and only fully lifted in June.

Elsewhere in the world Israel, Ireland and Wales have recently imposed lockdowns confining people to their homes for all but essential reasons to fight the virus.

“We must avoid a total lockdown as we had in March, unless it comes absolutely necessary and it is the only option. We must look at other scenarios and this is one of them,” Budo added in a reference to a weekend lockdown.

Infections have soared in recent days in the wealthy northeastern region, home to around 7.5 million people, as well as the rest of Spain, which last week became the first European Union nation to surpass one million confirmed Covid-19 cases.

Meanwhile, Catalonia's neighbouring region of Aragon  — which is home to some 1.3 million people — announced it would close its regional borders as of Tuesday.

The measure means no one will be allowed to enter or leave the region unless they have a “justified” reason, such as to go to work or seek medical care, the regional government of Aragon said in a tweet.

The northern region of Asturias said it would announce later on Monday whether it will adopt a similar measure.

Two other northern regions, Navarra and La Rioja, have already closed their regional borders.   

To try to curb the rise in coronavirus infections, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Sunday declared a national state of emergency, and a curfew covering all of Spain except the Canary Islands where infections are lower.   

He has said the government wants to avoid a repeat of the nationwide lockdown put in place in March during the first wave of the pandemic and only fully lifted in June.

Declaring a state of emergency gives Spain's 17 autonomous regions legal tools to impose tougher restrictions, such as the closure of their borders, in order to slow the spread of the virus.

The initial state of emergency will last for 15 days, but Sanchez has said he wants to prolong it until the beginning of May.   

But the leader of the main opposition conservative Popular Party (PP) said Monday he will only accept the measure being extended until mid-December.    

The government seems to have secured enough support to push through any future extension without relying on the PP, however Sanchez has said he would like to have the support of the main opposition party.

The latest figures show the virus has claimed nearly 35,000 lives in Spain. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

TRAVEL: What Covid-19 entry requirements does Spain still have?

The pandemic no longer dominates daily life and travel, but do Spanish authorities still have restrictions in place for international travellers arriving during the summer of 2022?

TRAVEL: What Covid-19 entry requirements does Spain still have?

Spain’s tourism industry is in full swing again after two difficult years, with more than 38 million international visitors in the first half of 2022. 

All domestic restrictions have ended (with the exception of mask wearing in hospitals, other health-related centres, care homes and on public transport). 

But how about Covid-19 travel restrictions? Are the tests, form-filling and proof of vaccination that made travel to Spain in 2020 and 2021 more complicated still in place?

EU/Schengen Area countries

Passengers arriving in Spain by air or sea from EU and/or Schengen countries are not required to show proof of their Covid-19 status through a certificate (vaccination, testing or recovery) nor fill in the SpTH health control form that was previously needed.

For travellers who live in EU/Schengen nations, travel to Spain is now practically the same as it was in 2019 before the pandemic began, except that they will be required to wear a mask on the plane or inside the ferry (mask wearing on the latter depends on certain conditions).

Non-EU/Schengen countries

For UK nationals, Americans, Indians, Australians and all other third-country nationals who don’t reside in Spain/EU and arrive in Spain by air or sea, the pre-existing Covid-19 requirements are technically (more on this further down) still in place.

Therefore, non-EU/Schengen travellers arriving in Spain should be able to prove either that they’re:

  • Fully vaccinated. Your vaccination status must meet the Spanish authorities’ validity period requirements. If more than 270 days have passed since your initial vaccination, you need to show proof of a booster shot.
  • Had a Covid-19 test which came back negative. This should be either a PCR taken within 72 hours prior to departure, or an antigen test taken within 24 hours prior to departure. 
  • Recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months. You can use a medical certificate or recovery record to prove your Covid-19 status on entry to Spain. 

The easiest way to show proof of one of the above is by showing your Covid-19 digital or paper certificate issued by the relevant authority of your country. So far, 48 non-EU countries (and territories) have joined the EU Digital COVID Certificate equivalence system, which you can check out here

If the country where you were issued a vaccination, testing or recovery certificate isn’t on the list, then you will have to fill in Spain’s health control form before travel to Spain. 

It’s worth noting that the above requirements do not apply to children under the age of 12.

Is Spain really still asking non-EU travellers to show a Covid-19 certificate?

This really depends on the airport, the airport official and any other number of factors.

It is clear that Covid-19 and the seriousness with which Spain’s Health Ministry and therefore airport border officials treat the pandemic has fallen considerably in recent months.

Many non-EU travellers have commented on Twitter about the fact that they were not asked to show any proof of Covid vaccination, testing or recovery upon arrival in Spain. 

Others who have visited the country during the summer of 2022 have said that they were asked to provide proof of their Covid status.

Therefore, even though for those who go to the trouble of paying for a Covid-19 test which then doesn’t get checked it can seem like a waste of money, it is better to be safe than sorry.

All non-EU travellers who don’t live in Spain or the EU/Schengen Area should therefore keep in mind that, technically speaking, Spain’s rules still state that arrivals from outside of the EU/Schengen Area by air or sea must have proof of vaccination, testing or recovery, so make sure you carry this with you. 

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