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CANARY ISLANDS

Travel to Spain: What’s the Covid health situation on the Canary and Balearic islands?

Spain’s holiday islands are hoping to be added to the UK’s "green list" for travel at the end of this week, so we look at the current Covid situation in the Balearics and the Canaries.

Tourists drink at a bar in Mallorca
JAIME REINA / AFP

Those countries hoping to be added to the UK’s green list would have to meet several criteria including a low infection rate.

The number of people in the country who have already been vaccinated, the prevalence of variants as well as the ease with which travellers can access reliable data, are also factors that the UK will taking into consideration.

Being added to the green list is crucial because it means that UK travellers won’t have to quarantine upon return home. 

While Spain as a whole has a 14-day infection rate of 249.75, its islands have significantly less.

The Canary Islands currently has a 14-day infection rate of 97 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, while the Balearics only has an incidence rate of 61 per 100,000. The infection rate has been dropping gradually in both regions, according to Spanish health ministry data.

Iago Negueruela, the Balearic’s tourism minister, told The Telegraph: “The British Government should take the epidemiological situation of separate regions into account, rather than different countries”.

“We have… the technology available to sequence the virus and its variants at a higher percentage than any other region [one of four factors set by the UK Government]. We have made huge efforts to contain the pandemic, and the epidemiological figures for the Islands are among the best in Europe,” he added.

The UK’s Foreign Office currently “advises against all but essential travel to Spain, including the Balearic Islands but excluding the Canary Islands”, which gives hope that the whole country won’t receive the same colour categorisation from the UK’s Global Travel Taskforce.

The Balearic Island government is desperate to get on Britain’s green list and president Francina Armengol has also called on the British government to examine the number of coronavirus cases per island rather than the region.

Menorca, for example, which is very popular with British tourists, only has 85 active cases on the whole island, much lower than Mallorca.

Last week, Canary Island Tourism Minister Yazia Castilla also asked the British government to treat the Canaries as a “special case”, separate from the rest of Spain, but admitted that she didn’t think that the Canary Islands would be added to the green list because they would have to halve their number of cases by May 17th.  

What restrictions are currently in place in the Balearics and the Canaries?

Balearics

The Balearics currently has a curfew between 11pm and 6am. In Mallorca and Ibiza, the interiors of bars and restaurants are closed, but eating on the terrace is allowed. Bars and restaurants on the two islands can open from 8pm to 10.30pm Monday to Thursday. Friday through Sunday, they must close at 5pm. Shops can open to a 75 percent capacity until 9pm.

On Menorca and Formentera, the interior of bars and restaurants can open to 50 percent capacity and must close at 5pm, except from Fridays to Sundays, when they can open until 6pm. The terraces however can open to 100 percent capacity and must close at 10.30pm, except Fridays through Sundays when they must close between 6-8pm. Shops can open to a 100 percent capacity until 9pm.

Canary Islands

In Tenerife, which has just moved to level 2 of the islands’ restrictions, bars and restaurants can open their terraces as well as indoors now. Groups of six can now meet rather than just 4.

The other islands at level two – Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and El Hierro – can also open bars and restaurants to a capacity of 50 percent inside and 75 percent on the terraces, with table numbers at four and six respectively. They must close by 11pm.

Islands at Level 1 – Fuerteventura, La Palma and La Gomera – can open their bars and restaurants until midnight. Up to 10 people can sit on a table on the terrace and six inside.

Shops are limited to 33 percent capacity at levels 2 and 3, and 50 percent capacity at level 1.

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COVID-19

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.

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