Spain analyses changes to PCR requirement for travellers

Spain’s foreign minister has acknowledged criticism over Spain’s requirement for a compulsory negative PCR test on arrival at airports and said the government is mulling possible changes.

Spain analyses changes to PCR requirement for travellers
Photo: AFP

UPDATE: The Spanish Health Ministry has changed requirements for compulsory testing for arrivals by sea and air and from December 10th will accept a negative TMA test as well as a PCR. READ MORE HERE

Arancha Gonzalez Laya told reporters in Brussels on Monday that authorities were looking at the possibility of accepting faster antigen tests after a flood of complaints that the current requirement makes travel impossible.

Under current rules, arrivals from a list of “high risk countries” that includes most of Europe, must test negative for COVID-19 in a laboratory test within 72 hours before arrival to Spain or risk a €6,000 fine.

The test results must be presented in English or Spanish by a recognised laboratory before travellers are allowed to board their flight.

But the tight timeframe together with delays in testing make it difficult for travellers to meet requirements especially if their trip away from Spain only lasts a few days or takes place over a weekend.

However, many have complained that it is impossible to take a PCR test, get the results back and travel in such a short time frame.

Speaking in Brussels on Monday, González Laya said she was ‘aware’ of the many complaints received from different sectors and that her team was ‘examining’ some of the issues.

One reader of the Local described how he had to change his Christmas plans to fly back to the UK for Christmas after discovering it would be impossible to carry out the test over the Christmas weekend in London and be sure of getting results before flying back to Spain.

“I was due to arrive in the UK before Christmas and fly back on the morning of December 29,” explained Nick, a teacher in Madrid who had hoped to go and visit family in the UK.  

“But with labs in London closed over the Christmas weekend and including the bank holiday on Monday December 28th (which is in place to compensate for Boxing Day falling on a Saturday this year) it would  have made it impossible to get a test with a guarantee of a result before my flight.”

Asked whether Spain would accept antigen tests instead of PCR tests, González Laya said ‘when they are sufficiently reliable’.

Last week, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) advised against a compulsory negative PCR .

The latest guidelines said that people travelling home from abroad for Christmas should not automatically be considered as high-risk for spreading infection.

Instead, these passengers should be treated in the same way as members of the local population, who have not had any direct contact to a person infected with Covid-19.

Airlines have also expressed their concern over the rule, urging that an antigen test, which is cheaper and quicker, be required instead.

‘The PCR tests are not a mechanism that the Spanish government has made up to pester people; a number of EU member states have also launched it,’ insisted González Laya.


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Health experts advise end of masks on public transport in Spain

Spanish health experts have advised the government that the use of masks should no longer be obligatory on public transport, but no concrete date has yet been set.

Health experts advise end of masks on public transport in Spain

Health experts who advise the Spanish Ministry of Health have said that masks should no longer be mandatory on public transport, but with the caveat that the government should first wait and observe the epidemiological situation in China, which has experienced a surge in case numbers since it abandoned its strict ‘Zero Covid’ strategy at the end of 2022, following widespread civil unrest.

The use of masks on public transport has now been the norm in Spain for almost three years, since the start of the pandemic. 

Speaking to Ser Canarias, Darias said: “We are getting closer and closer [to the end of having to wear a mask], but we will have to see how things evolve in order to make that decision; obviously the epidemiological situation is getting better and better, but we have to see how the issue of China evolves”. 

Reports in the Spanish press suggest some kind of agreement was made during a meeting between the government and the experts in December that masks would no longer be compulsory after assessing the situation in China, however, there is still no fixed date.

Back in October 2022, Spain’s ‘Emergency Unit’ suggested that mask rules would not be reviewed until March 2023 at the earliest, but more recently it said that it does not seem necessary to wait for March to remove the mask rule. 

According to recent Ministry of Health figures, just 2.79 percent of hospital beds in Spain are taken up by Covid-19 patients.

READ ALSO: Face masks to remain mandatory on public transport in Spain until March 2023

The use of masks indoors in Spain ceased to be mandatory on April 20th, 2022, after almost two years, however, they have remained mandatory in hospitals, pharmacies and, crucially, also on buses, metro, trains, planes and taxis.

While the mask rules have been strictly enforced in some places in Spain such as Seville and Valencia, in other cities such as Barcelona, many people refuse to wear them, despite the regulations still officially being in place. 

READ ALSO: Spain now requires Covid certificates for arrivals from China

In China, figures suggest that almost 60,000 people have died as a result of Covid-19 in a single month amid the spike in cases following the end of the country’s draconian restrictions. In response, Spain reintroduced health control checks for travellers arriving from China. 

It seems that Darias and the Spanish government are waiting to see how the situation plays out in China first, but all the indications and expert advice seems to suggest that masks will no longer be mandatory in public transport sometime very soon.