‘Spain’s stay-at-home lockdown in March 2020 was unconstitutional’, top court rules

Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday that the strict home confinement ordered by the government at the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year was unconstitutional.

'Spain's stay-at-home lockdown in March 2020 was unconstitutional', top court rules
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez attends the first question time session held since the state of alarm was declared at the Lower Chamber of the Spanish parliament in Madrid on April 15, 2020. Photo: Andres Ballesteros/AFP

Prime Minister Pedro’s Sánchez’s leftist government declared a three-month state of alarm on March 14th, 2020, allowing it to temporarily limit civil liberties such as the freedom of movement to try to curb the spread of Covid-19.

With the pandemic raging, Spain imposed one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns for several weeks, with people allowed to go out only to go to work if they could not do their jobs from home, or to buy food or medicine or visit a hospital.

The court said in a statement it had annulled some articles of the state of emergency decree related to the free movement of people in response to a lawsuit brought by far-right party Vox.

It agreed with Vox’s argument that the restrictions of movement required the passing of a “state of exception”, which unlike a state of emergency would require approval from parliament and not just the cabinet.

The court said it was a split decision, with six judges voting in favour and five against.

The ruling paves the way for the cancellation of fines imposed on people for breaking the home confinement rules during the state of emergency.

The Spanish government has responded by saying “it respects but does not share” the view of Spain’s Constitutional Court.

“Home confinement allowed us to save hundreds of thousands of lives,” Justice Minister Pilar Llop told journalists, describing the situation as being of “extreme emergency” with an “indescribable death count” and “the virus spreading very quickly”. 

Sánchez’s government declared a second state of emergency between the end of October 2020 and May 9th, 2021, but this one did not involve ordering home confinement.

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TRAVEL: What Covid-19 entry requirements does Spain still have?

The pandemic no longer dominates daily life and travel, but do Spanish authorities still have restrictions in place for international travellers arriving during the summer of 2022?

TRAVEL: What Covid-19 entry requirements does Spain still have?

Spain’s tourism industry is in full swing again after two difficult years, with more than 38 million international visitors in the first half of 2022. 

All domestic restrictions have ended (with the exception of mask wearing in hospitals, other health-related centres, care homes and on public transport). 

But how about Covid-19 travel restrictions? Are the tests, form-filling and proof of vaccination that made travel to Spain in 2020 and 2021 more complicated still in place?

EU/Schengen Area countries

Passengers arriving in Spain by air or sea from EU and/or Schengen countries are not required to show proof of their Covid-19 status through a certificate (vaccination, testing or recovery) nor fill in the SpTH health control form that was previously needed.

For travellers who live in EU/Schengen nations, travel to Spain is now practically the same as it was in 2019 before the pandemic began, except that they will be required to wear a mask on the plane or inside the ferry (mask wearing on the latter depends on certain conditions).

Non-EU/Schengen countries

For UK nationals, Americans, Indians, Australians and all other third-country nationals arriving in Spain by air or sea, the pre-existing Covid-19 requirements are technically (more on this further down) still in place.

Therefore, non-EU/Schengen travellers arriving in Spain should be able to prove either that they’re:

  • Fully vaccinated. Your vaccination status must meet the Spanish authorities’ validity period requirements. If more than 270 days have passed since your initial vaccination, you need to show proof of a booster shot.
  • Had a Covid-19 test which came back negative. This should be either a PCR taken within 72 hours prior to departure, or an antigen test taken within 24 hours prior to departure. 
  • Recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months. You can use a medical certificate or recovery record to prove your Covid-19 status on entry to Spain. 

The easiest way to show proof of one of the above is by showing your Covid-19 digital or paper certificate issued by the relevant authority of your country. So far, 48 non-EU countries (and territories) have joined the EU Digital COVID Certificate equivalence system, which you can check out here

If the country where you were issued a vaccination, testing or recovery certificate isn’t on the list, then you will have to fill in Spain’s health control form before travel to Spain. 

It’s worth noting that the above requirements do not apply to children under the age of 12.

Is Spain really still asking non-EU travellers to show a Covid-19 certificate?

This really depends on the airport, the airport official and any other number of factors.

It is clear that Covid-19 and the seriousness with which Spain’s Health Ministry and therefore airport border officials treat the pandemic has fallen considerably in recent months.

Many non-EU travellers on Twitter have commented on the fact that they were not asked to show any proof of Covid vaccination, testing or recovery upon arrival in Spain. 

Others who have visited the country during the summer of 2022 have said that they were asked to provide proof of their Covid status.

Therefore, even though for those who go to the trouble of paying for a Covid-19 test which then doesn’t get checked it can seem like a waste of money, it is better to be safe than sorry.

All non-EU travellers should therefore keep in mind that, technically speaking, Spain’s rules still state that arrivals from outside of the EU/Schengen Area by air or sea must have proof of vaccination, testing or recovery, so make sure you carry this with you.