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TRAVEL

Reader question: Do I need a Covid test to travel to another region in Spain this summer?

Changing travel restrictions and vaccine appointments mean many people in Spain are unsure about flying abroad this summer, preferring instead to spend their holidays in the Spanish territory. But do national holidaymakers need to get a Covid-19 test to travel to another region in Spain?

Do I need a Covid test to travel to another region in Spain this summer?
Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

Fifteen months since the start of the pandemic, international travel has gradually reopened but there are still plenty of restrictions that are particularly dissuasive for those who don’t have to travel for essential reasons such as holidaymakers, especially in light of rising Delta cases in Spain and elsewhere. 

Residents of Spain can fly overseas to a number of countries if they’ve been vaccinated or if they present a negative Covid test result, in some cases without many restrictions at all. 

READ ALSO: Which countries can I travel to from Spain this summer without restrictions?

However, countries’ travel rules can often change at a moment’s notice, and the fact that the vaccination rollout for much of Spain’s adult population has coincided with the summer holidays, means many are unsure about travelling abroad until they’ve been vaccinated.

READ ALSO: Do Spain’s regions offer Covid vaccines to national or international tourists?

So it’s no surprise that a recent survey by Spain’s Tourism Ministry found that 80 percent of Spaniards will spend their summer holidays in España.

After all, travel throughout Spain is now allowed and there’s no need to take a PCR or antigen test when travelling between regions, right?  

Do I need a Covid test to travel to another region in Spain this summer?

In a nutshell: if you’re travelling between two places in mainland Spain you don’t need a Covid test, but if you’re travelling to either the Canary Islands or the Balearics Islands from mainland Spain, you might.

Therefore, whether you’re driving from Galicia to Murcia, flying from Valencia to Seville or catching a train between Madrid and Barcelona, you won’t need to show a negative PCR or antigen test at any control point ie. airport, port etc. It’s still worth double checking entry requirements in the region which you are travelling to as these can change fairly quickly depending on the local epidemiological situation. 

That’s fairly straightforward but if you want to travel to either of Spain’s archipelagos, the rules are different. We have listed them here for you. 

Balearic Islands

Whether you will be required to provide proof of a negative PCR, TMA, LAMP or antigen test on arrival in Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza or Formentera depends on what Spanish region you’re travelling from. 

Until July 14th, Balearic health authorities require a Covid test from travellers departing from all of Spain’s autonomous communities and cities except Ceuta.

That’s due to the fact that currently their fortnightly infection rate is above 60 cases per 100,000 people, but you can check the latest updates here. PCRs must be carried out within 72 hours before travel to the islands and antigen tests within 48 hours.

Cala San Vicente, Ibiza. Photo: Michael Tomlinson/Unsplash

The Covid testing rule also applies to people on board ferries, sailboats and other vessels arriving from coastal regions on the above list. 

However, people from these high risk regions who have been fully vaccinated against Covid in the past eight months or received at least one dose more than 15 days before travel (and no longer than four months ago) do not need to provide a negative Covid test.

If they can prove they’ve recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months, they also don’t need a PCR test.

Reader question: How do I prove I have recovered from Covid in Spain?

As of July 8th 2021, the Balearics’ 14-day infection rate is 217 infection per 100,000 people, whereas ten days before it was 48 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Whatever your circumstances, don’t forget to fill in the Balearics’ health control form before heading to the islands. 

READ ALSO:

Canary Islands 

Canary health authorities do not distinguish between Spanish regions with higher or lower infection rates and require a PCR, LAMP, NAAT, TMA or antigen test taken within the 72 hours prior to travel from all holidaymakers from Spain’s other 16 autonomous communities and two autonomous cities, whether they’re arriving by sea or air.

You have to send the results of your tests to the following address [email protected] or get the lab to do it, but you don’t have to fill in a separate health control form. 

That’s unless, in the same way as the Balearic Islands, you’ve been fully vaccinated, received at least one dose of the vaccine more than 15 days before travel, or have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months. If national travellers can show official documentation to prove this, they’re exempt from having to take a Covid test before arriving in the Atlantic archipelago.

The eastern Canary island of Lanzarote. Photo: Daniil Sliusar/Unsplash

Children under the age of six are excluded from these requirements. 

The Canary government covers the cost of Covid tests for returning residents of the Canary Islands and makes an exception for travellers doing a stopover on the islands or people who left the islands for fewer than 72 hours.

There are currently no limitations on travel between the eight Canary Islands – Tenerife, Gran Canaria, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and La Graciosa. 

The archipelago’s fortnightly infection rate has increased up to 167 cases per 100,000 people as of July 8th.

It’s worth noting that much of the islands’ tourism accommodation also requires proof of vaccination, recovery or negative Covid tests from guests. These travel rules are in place in the Canary Islands until July 31st.  More info here.

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MONEY

Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.

READ MORE:

Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 

 

Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.

Santander

Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.

BBVA

The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.

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