REMINDER: What are the rules for travel between Spain and the UK in September 2021?

REMINDER: What are the rules for travel between Spain and the UK in September 2021?
Tourists in the Balearic island of Ibiza. Photo: Jaime Reina/AFP
What are the UK’s latest testing and quarantine rules for travellers returning from Spain from August 30th? What restrictions does Spain have for UK arrivals? Here's what you need to know about travel between the two countries currently.

Are people in Spain allowed to travel to the UK?

Yes, neither Spain nor the UK have a travel ban or Covid restrictions which completely prevent travel between the two countries (unless of course you have Covid-19). 

Since August 2nd 2021, fully vaccinated people travelling from Spain to the UK can enter without having to quarantine and have to take two Covid tests rather than three.

Up until then, people coming from amber list countries like Spain had to complete a ten-day quarantine when arriving in the UK. 

But since Monday August 2nd, people who are fully vaccinated in the EU and the US no longer need to quarantine when arriving in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from an amber list country such as Spain.

Note that your vaccine must be approved by the European Medicines Agency or US Food and Drug Administration. These include Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson (also known as Janssen).

However an addition to the rules on August 12th shattered dreams of quarantine free travel for many across Europe, by adding an amendment stating that to be considered ‘fully vaccinated’ by UK rules, travellers must have had two vaccines of the same brand.

In Spain, 2 million people who had the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine were offered a second dose of the Pfizer inoculation following the blood clot fears that affected trust in the Oxford-Swedish vaccine, but more than 90 percent of the affected population chose to complete their vaccination with AstraZeneca.

Unvaccinated travellers arriving in the UK from Spain do have to quarantine for ten days.

Is Spain on the UK’s green, amber or red list?

Update August 30th 2021:

The UK government announced on August 27th that all of Spain including its islands will stay on the amber list from Monday August 30th, allowing the vast majority of fully vaccinated people to continue to avoid quarantine when travelling to the UK for at least the next three weeks, when the next review is due.

Reports in the British press had previously hinted Spain was unlikely to go on the UK’s red list, as the falling fortnightly infection rate (277 cases per 100,000 people) during the past weeks and high vaccination rate (68,4 percent fully vaccinated) means it has put the worst of its fifth coronavirus wave behind it. 

The travel-traffic light changes announced by Scotland are virtually the same as are the travel requirements, which you can check here. For the rules for travel from an amber country to Wales click here and for Northern Ireland here

What are the UK’s testing requirements for arrivals from Spain?

According to the UK government website, all travellers heading to England from Spain have to take a Covid test (PCR recommended) in the 3 days before travel, book and pay for Covid tests to be taken on arrival in the UK and complete a passenger locator form.  

After arriving in England, fully vaccinated travellers must take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2.

READ MORE: How to book a ‘Day Two’ Covid-19 test if you’re travelling from Spain to the UK

This applies if you’re fully vaccinated under either “the UK vaccination programme, the UK vaccine programme overseas, an approved vaccination programme in Europe or the USA – not all are recognised in England”. Fully vaccinated means that you need to have received your second dose at least two weeks before arriving.

The UK’s Department for Transport has said that vaccinated and non-vaccinated “arrivals from Spain and all its islands are advised to use a PCR test as their pre-departure test wherever possible” instead of the cheaper antigen or lateral flow tests.

Previously, travellers heading to the UK could choose between taking either an antigen or PCR test before departing. This new recommendation came into effect on Sunday August 8th.

PCR tests for arriving in the UK have to meet the performance standards of ≥97 percent specificity, ≥80 percent sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml. 

Apart from having to quarantine, unvaccinated travellers arriving in the UK from Spain have to carry out a PCR test before travel, on day 2 and day 8.

Children aged 10 and under do not need to take a test for travelling to the UK, and children aged 4 and under are exempt from tests after arrival. There are also some other exemptions for tests – for example if you are going to the UK for urgent medical treatment.

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Tourists walk on the promenade at Magaluf Beach in Calvia, Mallorca. Photo by JAIME REINA / AFP

Are people in the UK allowed to travel to Spain and what are the requirements?

Yes, they are. However, Spain’s travel rules for UK arrivals have been stricter for the past two months.

On July 2nd, the rules for UK travellers heading to Spain changed, requiring them to show either a negative PCR test or a vaccination certificate, whereas during May and June neither was a requirement. Spain’s tightened restrictions for the UK came in light of the now dominant Delta variant in the UK and the rise in cases across Spain, all of which has spurred Spain’s government to act.

  • Vaccinated travellers

Vaccinated UK travellers must show proof of being fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to arrival in Spain (date(s) of vaccination must be specified), with a vaccine authorised by the European Medicines Agency or by the World Health Organisation.

Spain will accept vaccines that have been “authorised by the European Medicines Agency or those that have completed the process of emergency use by the World Health Organisation”.

As things stand, there are four EMA-approved vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. 

According to the World Health Organisation website, the vaccines listed for emergency use are currently the Chinese-developed Sinopharm and Sinovac inoculations and the more recently added Covishield. 

In the case of vaccination certificates, they must include the following information:

  1. Name and surname of the vaccinated person.
  2. Date of vaccination, indicating the date of the last dose administered.
  3. Type of vaccine administered.
  4. Number of doses administered/complete vaccination treatment.
  5. Issuing country.
  6. Identification of the issuing body that provided the vaccination certificate.
  • Unvaccinated travellers

Unvaccinated UK residents flying to Spain must show proof of a negative PCR test of similar carried out within 72 hours before travel, reads the Spanish Health Ministry’s website

Unvaccinated Spanish and EU travellers and their families, as well as British residents in Spain can enter Spain with a negative antigen test instead of a PCR, carried out within 48 hours before travel.

Antigen tests “are not accepted if you are travelling from the UK to Spain for tourism purposes,” the British government website reads.

According to the Spain Travel Health website, the diagnostic test document should include the date of sampling, identification and contact details of the centre performing the analysis, technique used and negative result, done within 72 hours prior to arrival in Spain.

 

  • All travellers from UK

Documents can be in either English, Spanish, French or German and in paper or electronic format, and must specify the name and surname of the passenger. 

Certificates of recovery certifying you have recovered from Covid-19 in the last 6 months prior to travel are currently not accepted by Spain for arrivals from the UK.

Children under 12 years of age are not required to present these certificates or supporting documents.

All overseas visitors including arrivals from the UK have to complete a health control form on the Spain travel health website – it can be found here – which will give them a document with a QR code that they can show at the airport in paper or digital format, or both. 

It’s worth noting that Britons can’t use the EU-wide Digital Covid Certificate to travel to Spain, nor do they have the option of showing a certificate of recovery from Covid-19 as a means of proving their health status.

According to the UK government website, “If you live in England, Spain will accept the NHS app or your NHS letter to demonstrate your COVID-19 vaccination status” and the respective documents for Scotland or Wales. 

“Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status,” British authorities state. 

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