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Q&A: What you should know before getting an antigen test for travel to and from Spain 

If you want to find out who needs an antigen test to travel to Spain, how much they cost and more important information about this cheaper and faster means of testing for Covid, here's what you need to know.

antigen test spain
A medical worker shows a negative antigen test at the lab. Photo: Paul Faith/AFP

Do I need an antigen to travel to Spain?

If you’re coming from one of the EU countries or territories Spain lists as risk areas, a negative antigen test is one of the diagnostic tests that Spain accepts for entry, the other one being a PCR test. 

Alternatively, if you’ve been fully vaccinated 14 days before travel or have recovered from Covid-19 in the last 6 months and can provide a certificate to prove this in either case, you don’t need to get a test.

On June 21st, Spain lifted the testing requirement for travellers from most of Germany, Italy, Norway, Austria, Poland, Finland and a number of other countries/areas (full list here).

Travellers from outside of the EU/EEA can only fly to Spain for non-essential reasons if they’ve been fully vaccinated 14 days prior to travel,or if they’re flying from one of the countries on Spain’s low risk third countries list:  Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macao, China and Japan.

All international travellers flying to Spain, whether they’re from the EU or outside or are on the risk list or not, must make sure they fill in a health control form on the Spain Travel Health website or app before travelling to Spain.

Travellers should also remember to check the entry requirements of their countries for travel from Spain. 

Should I get an antigen test rather than a PCR test?

Antigen tests are faster and cheaper than PCR tests in Spain and generally speaking across the EU. 

In France, antigen tests cost around €38 whereas PCR tests cost €54, but in other EU countries the difference in price is usually much greater.

The antigen tests accepted by Spain are the ones authorised by the European Commission, which can be checked on this link.

According to the OECD, “the main advantages of rapid antigen tests over RT-PCR include their simplicity of utilisation” as the swab doesn’t have to get taken to a lab to get a result, “they’re much cheaper”, and “the rapidity of the result: most produce a result in 15 to 30 minutes, while RT-PCR requires several hours to be performed”. They are however considered slightly less effective in detecting Covid-19 than PCR tests.

Photo: LLUIS GENE / AFP

Where can I get an antigen test for travel to Spain?

If you’re not familiar with hospitals or labs offering antigen tests in your country, this list includes some international airports and approved labs across the world where you can get one.

This other page shows the difference in antigen test prices at different airports around the globe.

Do I need an antigen test for travel within Spain? 

Not unless you’re travelling from mainland Spain to the Canary Islands or to the Balearic Islands (high and low risk regions updated weekly here). 

If you’re travelling between regions on mainland Spain you are not required to take any form of Covid test, whether you’re driving or flying. 

How much do antigen tests cost in Spain?

The prices vary considerably depending on the clinic or lab offering the antigen test and the region in which you are, from €75 in the more expensive private health centres in Madrid to €35 in Andalusia and the Canary Islands. 

Try googling “precio prueba de antígenos” (price antigen test) and then the place where you are in Spain to shop around for the best price. 

Where can I get an antigen test in Spain?

At most of Spain’s main airports, at labs, private health clinics and in some places such as Madrid in pharmacies and even dental clinics. 

It really depends on where you are, so remember to google the words above in either English or Spanish as the availability varies depending on your location. 

“These tests must have been carried out (taking of the sample) 48 hours before arrival in Spain,” according to the Spain Travel Health website.

Do I need an antigen test to cross the border from Spain into Portugal or France?

If you’re driving from Spain to Portugal, you do not need to show a negative Covid test and the borders between the Iberian nations are currently open. 

However, if you’re flying to Portugal from Spain you will need to either get an antigen test 48 hours before boarding or a PCR 72 hours prior. For more official information on travel between Spain and Portugal, check here

To travel to France from Spain by air, land or sea an antigen or PCR test is required in most cases, unless you’ve been fully vaccinated 14 days before travel. More info from Spanish authorities here and from the French government here.

Can I use an antigen test for travel from Spain to the EU?

Most EU countries require some form of testing -usually either PCR or antigen tests – for arrivals from Spain. 

This list created by the Etias Visa page explains in more detail the specific requirements for each member state, but it’s worth double checking with the authorities of the country you plan to visit as the conditions are subject to short-notice changes in the current global climate.

The launch of the EU-wide Digital Covid Certificate on July 1st should increase the chances of antigen tests being more widely accepted but each member state will still have the power to decide whether it accepts rapid antigen tests or just PCR tests.

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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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