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Germany declares whole of Spain a Covid ‘risk area’

The whole of Spain has been placed back on Germany's Covid 'risk' list, while Cyprus has been put on the high-incidence list. If Spain's skyrocketing infections continue, it could soon be reclassified once again - this time as a high-incidence area.

Germany declares whole of Spain a Covid 'risk area'
Mallorca, a popular holiday destination for Germans, is set to be classed a 'risk area' along with the rest of Spain. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Clara Margais

Until now, popular regions of Spain such as the island of Mallorca had been held off the coronavirus risk list, making it relatively easy for German tourists to enjoy a trip there this summer. 

But in light of soaring infection rates, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) will now class the country a ‘risk area’ from Sunday, 11th July.

Although it means quarantine-free travel is still possible with proof of a negative Covid test, vaccination or recovery, travellers returning to Germany from Spain will have to register online – and the development of the situation will be watched more closely. 

However, as of Friday, the nationwide 7-day incidence per 100,000 people had just snuck over the 200 mark to 201.1, up from 92 on July 2nd. The 14-day incidence, meanwhile, had shot up to 278.

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If it stays at these levels, there’s a chance that the country could be moved up the list once again and be reclassified ‘high incidence’ area.

This would mean anyone who isn’t vaccinated against or recovered from Covid would have to quarantine for at least five days (or a maximum of 10) after traveling to Germany. 

Since April this year, the region of La Rioja has been on the Covid risk list, followed the regions of Ceuta, Catalonia (where Barcelona is) and Cantabria in June and July.

The Basque Country, Andalusia and Navarra have been classed as risk areas since last summer, though the Spanish islands have remained notably absent since they were scratched from the list in March. 

Spike in infections in Mallorca

For a few weeks now, Mallorca’s status as a non-risk area has been out of step with reality.

While the island enjoyed consistently low infections between February and late June, the infection rate suddenly started to shoot up from June 26th – first over 50 (the RKI’s lower threshold for a basic risk area) and then over 100. 

As of Thursday, the 7-day incidence of new infections per 100,000 people was 127,2 in Mallorca. Across the Balearic Islands as a whole – the archipelago that encompasses Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza – the 7-day incidence was 157,1.

Meanwhile, the ‘R’ rate – meaning the number of other people infected by one person with Covid – stood at 2.1, suggesting that infections are set to continue to increase exponentially in the coming days and weeks. 

Mallorca is often referred to as the 17th German state due to the overwhelming presence of German tourists there. It hit the headlines in March when tens of thousands of Germans travelled to the island over Easter at the peak of Germany’s third wave.

READ ALSO: What are the rules for travelling to some of Germany’s favourite holiday destinations?

If the 7-day incidence tops 200 in the coming weeks and Spain becomes a high-incidence area, people with no proof of vaccination or recovery will have to quarantine for 10 days on their return, with the option to end quarantine with a negative test after five days. 

This could strike a major blow both to German holidaymakers and the island’s tourist economy. 

Entry registration will be needed 

Though everyone who travels by plane has to show a negative test or proof of vaccination or recovery before they fly, those who travel to ‘non-risk’ areas don’t have to register in Germany’s digital entry portal on their return, and there is no obligation to quarantine.

With the whole of Spain now considered a risk area, holidaymakers will be asked to register on the government’s entry portal in order to get back into Germany. 

The government is also advising against unnecessary travel to the country, including tourist trips.

However, with the official travel warning to risk areas having been dropped by the government in early July, this ‘advice’ is likely to be a much softer deterrent to holidaymakers than the stronger official warning. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany’s latest rules on international travel affect you

Cyprus on the ‘high incidence’ list 

As well as moving the entirety of Spain onto RKI’s list of risk countries, another holiday destination beloved by German tourists is now subject to much stricter travel rules.

With Covid infections rapidly on the rise, the Mediterranean island of Cyprus has been pushed up a level from a risk area to a high-incidence area and has therefore become subject to a travel warning.

The stricter rules will come into force on Sunday, July 11th.

As of Friday 2nd of July, the 7-day incidence in Cyprus was around 213, putting it in second place in Europe, just below the United Kingdom.

As mentioned above, countries with a 7-day incidence of more than 200 are classed as ‘high-incidence’ areas by the RKI, meaning registration is mandatory, and people who aren’t fully vaccinated or recovered must quarantine for at least five days after returning to Germany.

New Lambda variant arrives in Spain

Though Spain is (for now) only considered a ‘risk area’ rather than a high-incidence or virus variant area, one region of the country has recorded several cases of a highly infectious South American variant of Covid in recent days.

According to Spanish media sources, the Lambda variant – which was first discovered in Peru last year – has been linked to around 80 new Covid cases in the northern region of Cantabria.

With the variant also present in the United Kingdom, health experts fears that it could start to spread across Europe. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s infection rate rises slightly as new Covid variant reaches Europe

With the Delta variant now becoming the dominant strain of Covid in Germany, the downward trend in the country’s infection rates has also started to reverse in recent days.

On Tuesday, the RKI recorded a 7-day national incidence of 4.9 – a figure which had increased to 5.5 by Friday.

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TRAVEL NEWS

What you should know if you’re travelling to Spain in December

The rules, the least busy travel times, the strikes, the free travel deals, what you can’t check in - here’s what you need to know if you’re travelling to Spain in December or at Christmas.

What you should know if you're travelling to Spain in December

December is a busy travel period with many foreigners leaving Spain to celebrate Christmas with their families back in their home countries and many others travelling to Spain for a holiday or to spend time with their loved ones here.

Airline strikes and an increase in passengers could make travelling this winter a little more challenging, but here’s everything to need to know, so you can be prepared. 

According to Spain’s airport operator Aena, the number of airline tickets sold for travel to Spain over the winter season is set to exceed the number in 2019-2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Also, last winter saw the rise of the Omicron variant and some countries introduced new restrictions, so many foreign residents decided not to go back to see their families over the holidays. This means that this year could see more people wanting to return after several years of not having celebrated together with their families. 

Therefore, airports could be particularly busy this December, so make sure you leave plenty of time for getting through security and passport control.

There is still one important Covid travel rule in Spain

Although the majority of Spain’s domestic and travel Covid-19 restrictions were lifted before the summer of 2022, one of the only rules that still remains in place is the obligation of wearing a face mask on public transport.

This includes aeroplanes, buses, trains, taxis and some ferries, but mask wearing isn’t compulsory at airports, ports or bus and train stations.

As things stand, the general rule is that cabin crew from all airlines have to tell passengers on planes bound to Spain that they have to wear masks.

If on the other hand the aircraft is flying out of Spain, the mask rules of the country which the plane is flying to apply, which in almost all cases means face coverings aren’t required.

Spain’s flagship airline Iberia has criticised the Spanish government’s ongoing mask requirement for passengers on planes bound to the country, stressing that it “doesn’t make any sense” and “it affects tourism”.

Although it is no longer compulsory to present a negative Covid-19 test to fly, Spanish health and airport authorities ask that anyone with Covid-19 symptoms avoid travel.

It is no longer necessary either for travellers to fill in health control forms before flying to Spain as was previously the case, and there are no bans or restrictions on non-EU or other specific countries.

Which are the least busy days for travelling to Spain in December?

According to flight search engine Skyscanner, which has analysed nine million searches for people looking to travel to Spain over the festive period, some of the quietest days to travel to Spain are from the 18th to the 23rd, with the 23rd being the least popular before Christmas.

If you’re wanting to fly to Spain after Christmas, however, you’ll find it even quieter on December 28th, as well as January 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th. You may find Spanish cities to be fairly busy however as December 6th and 8th are public holidays.

Conversely, the most popular days to travel are between December 12th and the 17th, so avoid those days if you want to avoid the crowds. 

Who is travelling to Spain this December? 

According to new data released by Spain’s Tourism Ministry, during the last month of the year, 7,066,101 people have booked seats, which implies a recovery of 97.4 percent compared to the same month of 2019. 

Forecasts for the early December holidays reveal that Italians, Germans and French are the main tourists who will be visiting Spain. During the puentes and public holidays on December 6th and 8th, Italians will make up the majority of tourists travelling to Spain (23 percent), followed by Germans (17 percent), French (16 percent), British (10 percent) and finally the Portuguese (6 percent).

Airline strikes

Several airline strikes have also been called for this winter, mainly involving low-cost airlines Vueling and Ryanair.

The Vueling strikes are due to take place on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and public holidays. They began on November 1st 2022 and will run right through the Christmas period to January 31st 2023.

Specifically, this means that those travelling on December 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 9th,10th and 11th may be affected by cancellations. 

Additional days that will be affected include December 24th, 31st and January 5th 2023, affecting those passengers who plan on travelling for Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and Three Kings’ Day.

The workers are demanding a wage increase in line with the rise in prices due to inflation, as well as protesting over the precarious work conditions that have been experienced within the sector since even before the pandemic.  

Many passengers are currently being offered alternative flights, refunds or other compensation if their flights are cancelled. 

Ryanair baggage handlers and on-the-ground staff have also been striking and will continue to do so until January 7th, 2023.

It’s likely these airports will include Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid, Málaga, Palma de Mallorca and Seville, however, it’s worth noting that Ryanair has said that it doesn’t expect this strike to cause that much disruption.

Bringing food and goods in from the UK and other non-EU countries

One of the advantages of going back to your home country for Christmas is not only to see your friends and family but also to stock up on treats and ingredients you’ve missed while living in Spain. Think mince pies, custard powder and Marmite for those going back to the UK.

But as this is the second Christmas since Brexit came into force, many may still not be totally aware of what they’re now allowed to bring to Spain from non-EU countries.

The EU’s strict rules mean that all imports of animal-derived products are not allowed. This means no Christmas puddings with suet, no British bacon and blocks and Wensleydale or Cheddar cheese to bring back with you.

If you want to know exactly what you can and can’t bring in this Christmas, read our detailed guide here

Bringing food from Spain into the UK, is a little easier as you’re still allowed to bring in EU products, so packets of jamón and Manchego cheese are ok to take.

Travel within Spain

Those who are planning on travelling within Spain this Christmas, either to visit friends and family or simply for the fun of travel should know that there are currently lots of travel discounts, particularly on trains.

Multi-journey tickets are currently free on Cercanías, Rodalies and Media Distancia trains and are worth paying the €10 or €20 deposit for if you’re going to be making the same journey several times during your trip.

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For example, if you’re planning on spending the holiday in the small Catalan town of Sitges, but know that you’ll be making several trips to Barcelona during that time for sightseeing, shopping or eating out, then it could be worth it.

Unfortunately, the free tickets are not available on long-distance trains, but you can still get a bargain on these this winter as Spain’s new low-cost train operator Iryo recently launched.

This means that you can get tickets from Madrid to Barcelona as well as Valencia and Málaga for an average of €18 each. 

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