Spain remains on amber list but new test recommendations apply for travel to UK

Spain remains on amber list but new test recommendations apply for travel to UK
Spain to remain on UK's amber list. Photo: JAIME REINA / AFP
Despite prior speculation, The British government announced on Wednesday night that Spain will remain on the UK's amber list, allowing fully vaccinated people to continue to avoid quarantine when travelling to the UK.

The changes to the UK’s travel lists will come into force on Sunday, August 8th at 4am and were announced by Britain’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. 

Reports in the British press had previously hinted that Spain was set to go on the UK’s red list or new “amber watchlist”, which would have meant travellers arriving from Spain had to stay at a government-run quarantine hotel for ten days and pay £1,750 (€2,046) per person.

The latest announcement by UK authorities rules this possibility out, meaning that fully vaccinated people travelling from Spain to the UK will not have to quarantine upon arrival. The UK updates its traffic light travel list approximately every three weeks.

However, the Department for Transport has now said that “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 lateral flow antigen tests.

“The additional precaution of a PCR test as passengers’ pre-departure test is being recommended for travellers from Spain given the risk to the UK of importation of variants of concern, specifically the B.1.621 and Beta variants, as well as traveller volumes and positivity rates in Spain,” the UK government wrote in a statement.

Previously, travellers heading to the UK from Spain were advised to choose between taking either an antigen or PCR test before departing.

The UK government’s wording does suggest this latest testing update is a recommendation rather than a requirement, which leads to the question of what happens if passengers arriving in the UK from Spain present an antigen test rather than a PCR from August 8th. 

“Positive samples from PCR tests can be genomically sequenced, allowing us to detect and understand more about variants of concern”.

“UK clinicians and scientists will remain in close contact with their counterparts in Spain to keep abreast of the latest data and picture of cases in Spain,” they added. 

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).

You also have to have received your second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, no earlier than 14 days before travel.

Even if you’ve been fully vaccinated, travellers to the UK will still need to take a PCR test before departing and another one on the second day after they arrive.

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

Unvaccinated travellers arriving in the UK from Spain still do have to quarantine for ten days and must also carry out a Covid test before travel, as well as on day two and day eight of quarantine.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We are committed to opening up international travel safely, taking advantage of the gains we’ve made through our successful vaccination programme, helping connect families, friends and businesses around the world”. 

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Member comments

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  1. Can you/anyone tell me if I (British citizen, living in Malta), can enter the UK via France, having travelled from Spain, having been fully vaccinated (Pfizer x 2) in Malta, but due to my ID card still pending, without a vaccination passport? I have the hospital card showing my vaccinations only.

    Many thanks,
    Erica

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