Spain travel update: What we know about Canary Islands’ compulsory Covid-19 tests for tourists

From November 13th holidaymakers visiting the islands will have present a negative Covid-19 test to check into their accommodation.

Spain travel update: What we know about Canary Islands' compulsory Covid-19 tests for tourists
Photos: AFP

UPDATE: From November 23rd travellers from high risk countries to all destinations in Spain (including Canary Islands) must present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior of arrival required before travel. READ MORE HERE 

The new rules state that in order to check in to their holiday accommodation, visitors must show a PCR or negative antigen test carried out a maximum of 72 hours in advance of their arrival on the islands.

The measure applies to all tourists over the age of 12, whether from elsewhere in Spain or abroad staying in hotels or rented accommodation on the islands.

Those who do not have a test before arrival on the islands will be able to get a test locally and isolate in their accommodation while it processed.

The decree states that it is the hotel’s responsibility to inform guests ahead of time that they need to show proof of a negative diagnosis on arrival and must also inform guests of how to get one locally if needed.

Guests must also be informed of the obligation to download the governments track and trace app, Radar Covid.

Residents on the Canary Islands who may want to stay in a hotel on their own island or another one will have to prove that they have not left the archipelago for at least 15 days before checking in, the Minister of tourism explained in a press conference on Thursday.

The same applies to non-residents of the Canary Islands who can prove they have already spent 15 days on the islands before checking into new accommodation.

The Canary Islands is the only region exempted from the nationwide curfew declared under the state of alarm, due to the fact that it has a much lower incidence rate of coronavirus cases than the rest of Spain.

But authorities fear infections could grow with the influx of tourists expected now that the archipelago has been added to a “safe travel list” by the UK and Germany.

Why are checks carried out at accommodation check in and not on arrival at airport?

Canary Island authorities have long been lobbying for some sort of test certification for arrivals but there isn't a straightforward legal mechanism to allow it.

Regional premier Ángel Victor Torres explained on Monday that they had looked into carrying out test certification on entry at the islands’ airports as they do in Italy, but regional authorities have no legal power to do this unless they declare a state of alarm over the region.

Instead they have worked out a legal way that means accommodation providers can insist on negative tests being shown at check in on arrival.


Will we need a negative test to fly?

Not necessarily as the airlines themselves won't insist on it. However, if you have booked with a tour operator they may insist on travellers having a negative test before they leave to quicken the check in process at hotels and avoid quarantine issues rather than wait until you get to the destination.

What if I don’t have one?

If you didn’t have a test carried out in your home country before leaving for a holiday in the Canary Islands then on arrival at your accommodation you will be redirected to alocal health centre, clinic or laboratory in the Canary Islands for a test. You will then have to remain in isolation until the results come back.

What if I test positive?

Obviously if the test comes back positive before you leave for your holiday, then you shouldn’t travel. And if you wait until you get to the islands and then test positive then you will not be allowed to check in to your accommodation unless there are facilities to stay quarantined while there.

What kind of tests are valid?

Authorities said they would accept PCR or negative antigen tests conducted within 72 hours before arrival on the islands.

Who pays for the test?

The costs of the tests will have to be borne by the traveller, either before departure or on the island at a private health centre at your destination.

When will it come into force?

The decree was passed on Thursday October 30th and was published in the Canary Islands Official Gazette (BOC) on October 31st. It will come into force after ten working days from that date, to ensure that hotels and tourist accomodation providers have enough time to inform guests of the new requirement. 

Hence from November 13th the tests will be a requirement by law. 



Track and trace app

The decree also states that all new arrivals are obliged to download the government track and trace app known as “radar covid” and must be informed to do so by their accomodation.

Radar Covid: What you need to know about tracing app Spain says you 'must' download

And in the meantime?

Until the new law comes into force, tourists arriving in the Canaries will need to pre-fill health questionnaires, obtain a tracking code and may have their temperature taken on arrival at airports, measures that are also in place at all Spanish airports.

These will continue to be a requirement even with negative test certificates once the decree comes into force.


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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.