What happens when tourists get Covid-19 while on holiday in Spain?

What happens when tourists get Covid-19 while on holiday in Spain?
Photo: Desiree Martin/AFP
What do national and international tourists have to do if they are exposed to a positive case or develop Covid symptoms while on holiday in Spain? Do the rules change for fully vaccinated visitors? When can they return home?

Do tourists and visitors in Spain have to quarantine if they have Covid-19 symptoms?

If tourists or visitors develop Covid-19 symptoms while in Spain, they are required to self-isolate in their accommodation and avoid physical contact with other people. 

Then they must contact the health authorities of the region they’re staying in, and based on their evaluation of the symptoms, they will ascertain whether the person in question has to take a Covid test. 

Phone numbers to call in Spain’s different regions if you suspect you have Covid-19.

If the test comes back positive, they’ll have to quarantine either at their hotel accommodation or wherever they are told to. 

In the Valencia region’s case, hotels have set up self-isolation rooms for tourists who develop Covid-19 to stay in, so there is always accommodation available for them to lengthen their stay for the remainder of their quarantine. 

It’s a measure to be taken seriously as those who break the self-isolation period face €30,000 fines from regional authorities.

In most cases, these Covid quarantine periods last ten days in Spain and are paid for by the tourists themselves.

Some tourists are only finding out they have Covid-19 when it comes to getting a Covid test to fly back to their countries, meaning they have to pay for an extra ten days entirely out of their own pocket. 

However, some regions have factored in how the uncertainty of tourism and travel will dissuade many tourists from venturing abroad and have therefore decided to take action and offer free Covid health insurance to visitors.

FIND OUT MORE: Which regions in Spain offer free insurance to tourists who get Covid-19 while on holiday?

If the region in which you will be staying in Spain doesn’t have free Covid insurance, keep in mind that the Spanish government travel website states that “in all cases, Spanish emergency healthcare services are guaranteed and provided at hospitals and healthcare centres”.

And even if you are staying in a Spanish region with free Covid health insurance, you should take out your own comprehensive travel insurance to be covered for all eventualities, not just Covid-19.

“It’s crucial to check the details to make sure that you have enough cover if you do need to isolate,” Rory Boland, Travel Editor at consumer group Which?, told the BBC. 

This could potentially mean you get reimbursed for any extra days of accommodation you may have to pay for depending on where you’re staying in Spain.

“Some policies have a ‘day benefit’ rate, but check that that will be enough to cover the cost of the hotel and everything else you might need if you do need to quarantine.”

If you’re an EU citizen, make sure to bring your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card).

READ ALSO: EHIC or GHIC – What’s the latest on European health insurance cards for Britons?

Photo: Cristina Quicler/AFP

Do the same rules apply to fully vaccinated tourists/visitors in Spain who are exposed to a positive case but don’t have Covid symptoms?

Not necessarily. In principle, you don’t have to self-isolate but you will have to get tested.

On June 23rd, Spain’s Health Ministry revised its Covid-19 prevention strategy to allow those who have been fully vaccinated to not have to quarantine for ten days if they come into contact with a positive case. 

“People who are fully vaccinated and considered a close contact of a positive Covid-19 case will generally speaking be exempt from quarantine,” Spain’s Health Ministry and the country’s Public Health Commission said at the time. 

A “close contact” refers to a person who has been fewer than two metres from someone who tested positive for Covid-19, for longer than 15 minutes in a day.

Even though they will not have to quarantine for ten days as was the case previously, they will have to take two Covid tests (PCR or antigen), the first as soon as they’ve found out about the positive case and another seven days after the exposure.

And if it comes back positive, they will have to self-isolate.

Spain has recently allowed self-test kits to be sold at pharmacies without prescriptions, so this can reduce costs even though they’re considered less effective in asymptomatic people. 

READ MORE: What you need to know about Spain’s new Covid self-test kits

Spanish health authorities also recommend that they still “avoid contact with vulnerable people and people who haven’t been vaccinated” for that period. 

As things stand, fully vaccinated people have a very low chance of suffering serious health complications if they contract Covid-19 again, but they can still be carriers of the virus and infect others. 

Spain’s Health Ministry has also insisted that immunised people who have been exposed should continue wearing a facemask during “social interactions”, even though the country lifted the outdoor face mask rule on Saturday June 26th. 

They are also asked to avoid going to crowded events or places and to closely monitor possible symptoms. 

When can I return to my country after having Covid in Spain?

The Spanish government has set the standard quarantine period at ten days from when Covid symptoms first developed or ten days from when you were exposed to a positive case (have a for asymptomatic people who also tested positive). 

Authorities do however recommend a period of four days to monitor if symptoms persist. 

Keep in mind that you may need to take a Covid-19 test to return to your home country, depending on their travel rules for Spain.

As Spain doesn’t allow non-residents to access to its EU-approved vaccination, testing or recovery certificates through its regional health system, tourists who catch Covid-19 while they’re here on holiday face an uphill battle when trying to get a Spanish Digital Covid Certificate for their trip back home.

One reader based in Germany who got Covid-19 while on holiday in the Canary Islands told the Local Spain: “Our main concern is who will provide us with a recovery certificate. Everyone we have contacted has been saying they are not responsible”.

As they had the virus less than six months ago, they still cannot get the jab and cannot get a recovery certificate either, if they tested positive with an antigen test rather than a PCR test.

“I think it’s odd that there is nobody to issue a recovery certificate for foreign visitors visiting Spain. I’m sure there are many people who are stuck in limbo like us”.

Therefore, the best option for tourists in this situation may be to check what the testing requirements are for their home country and get a PCR or other Covid test in Spain before they fly home based on this information. A certificate of recovery or a negative Covid test issued by a private lab in Spain may be sufficient proof for authorities in your country, even if Spain’s Digital Covid Certificate for travel to the EU isn’t an option.


What if I’m a national tourist who gets Covid while on holiday in another region of Spain?

National tourists in mainland Spain are allowed to return to their homes in another region to self-isolate as long as they do it in a private vehicle as quickly as possible and avoid all possible contact with others. 

If this is not possible they will have to follow the same advice listed above for foreign visitors. 

In some regions, national tourists are also covered by free health insurance, meaning that their accommodation and other health costs will be covered if they get Covid-19 while on holiday. 

FIND OUT MORE: Which regions in Spain offer free insurance to tourists who get Covid-19 while on holiday?

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