Spain analyses changes to PCR requirement for travellers

Spain analyses changes to PCR requirement for travellers
Photo: AFP
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.

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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