SHARE
COPY LINK

TRAVEL NEWS

Spain suspends flights with South Africa and Botswana over new Covid variant

Spain will cancel flights from South Africa and Botswana from Tuesday over the worrying new Covid-19 variant detected in the southern African nations, Spanish health minister Carolina Darias announced on Friday.

Spain ban on flights from South Africa
So far seven European countries have banned flights from South Africa. Photo: Michele Spatari / AFP

The restrictions will only affect flights from South Africa and Botswana for the time being, said Darias, but it may include other high-risk countries in the near future.

The news comes after the discovery of a worrying new Covid variant, known as B.1.1.529, that is believed to have more than thirty mutations. For now, no cases of this variant have been detected in Spain.

Spain is one of seven EU countries which have so far cancelled flight connections between the southern African nations. The UK and Israel have also imposed restrictions.

This is the second time Spain imposes a travel ban on South Africa over variant fears, but for the past few months fully vaccinated travellers from South Africa have been able to visit Spain.

There are currently no direct flights between Spain and the two African nations, but from Tuesday November 30th passengers on connecting flights will not be able to board the leg of the journey which takes them to Spain, or will be prevented from doing so before leaving southern Africa. 

Not much is known about the new variant – which is still called B.1.1.529 as it hasn’t yet been given a Greek title by the World Health Organisation.
 
However, experts say that the extraordinarily high number of mutations suggest that it is highly infectious and particularly taxing on human immune systems.
 
For comparison, the highly contagious Delta variant had two mutations, while Beta had three.
 
South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla described the variant as “seriously worrying” and likely behind an “exponential” increase in reported cases in South Africa in previous days.
 
He said it had been striking how sharply the infection figures had risen in recent days – after months with very few positive tests.
 
There are also concerns that B.1.1.529 could be resistant to the Covid vaccines that have been developed so far, though scientists haven’t been able to determine this yet.
 
In a sign of the growing alarm around the new ‘supervariant’, the European Union separately called on states to prohibit travel from countries in southern Africa.
 
The EU’s executive body “will propose, in close coordination with member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529,” EU chief Ursula Von der Leyen tweeted Friday.
 
The first case in Europe of the new variant was identified in Belgium in an unvaccinated young adult woman.

South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation issued a statement this Friday after the first announcement from the United Kingdom to suspend flights, calling it a “a hasty decision”.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

TRAVEL NEWS

TRAVEL: Spain extends ban on unvaccinated non-EU tourists

Britons, Americans and other non-EU/Schengen travellers who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered from Covid-19 will not be able to visit Spain for tourism for at least another month, Spanish authorities have confirmed.

TRAVEL: Spain extends ban on unvaccinated non-EU tourists

The Spanish government has again extended temporary restrictions for non-essential travel (including tourism) from most third countries for another month, until June 15th 2022.

That means that non-EU/Schengen adults who reside outside of the EU and who haven’t been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or recovered from the illness in the past six months cannot go on holiday to Spain during the next month. 

Therefore, Spain continues to not accept negative Covid-19 tests from British, American, Canadian, Indian or other third-country nationals who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered. 

There had been hopes that the shorter two-week extension to the ban on non-essential travel issued on April 30th, as well as talk of the “orderly and progressive reopening” of the country’s borders, would mean that unvaccinated third country nationals would be allowed into Spain in May.

But in the end, Saturday May 14th’s state bulletin confirmed that Spain will keep the same measures in place for another 31 days, stating that they “will eventually be modified to respond to a change of circumstances or to new recommendations in the context of the European Union”.

Spain’s ban on unvaccinated non-EU travellers is arguably the last major Covid-19 restriction in place in the country, and other EU countries such as Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic and Ireland are allowing unvaccinated tourists in.

This latest announcement by the Spanish government marks the umpteenth extension to non-essential travel from outside of the EU/Schengen area over the past two years of the pandemic, the previous one was due to expire on May 15th. 

But perhaps this extension is the most surprising, as the Spanish health ministry has modified its rulebook to treat Covid-19 like the flu and the country wants to recover the tourism numbers it had pre-pandemic.

The ban affects unvaccinated British tourists in particular, as the UK is still the biggest tourism market for Spain, but Britons’ non-EU status means they have to follow the same Covid-19 travel rules as other third-country nationals.

Vaccinated or recovered third-country travellers

Those who were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 more than two weeks prior to travel to Spain will need to show a valid vaccination certificate with an EMA or WHO approved vaccine.

If their initial vaccination treatment was completed more than 9 months ago (270 days), they’ll need to show they’ve had a Covid-19 booster shot. 

As for non-EU/Schengen travellers who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months, they will need to show a recovery certificate to prove this

According to Spain’s Health Ministry, recovery certificates accepted as valid are those “issued at least 11 days after the first positive NAAT or RAT, and up to a maximum of 180 days after the date of sampling”, as well as being issued by the relevant authorities.

Exceptions

In early February, Spanish authorities also decided to start allowing unvaccinated non-EU/Schengen teenagers aged 12 to 17 to visit Spain for tourism if they provided a negative PCR.

Spain continues to have a small list of low-risk third countries whose travellers visiting Spain for non-essential reasons can enter without having to present proof of Covid-19 testing, recovery or vaccination. 

This is updated weekly and can be checked here by clicking on the PDF under “risk and high risk countries/areas”. 

READ ALSO: Can I travel to my second home in Spain if I’m not vaccinated?

If you’re not vaccinated or recovered, the exceptions for travel to Spain from third countries that fall under the non-essential travel restrictions are:

  • You are a resident in the EU or Schengen country.
  • You have a visa for a long duration stay in an EU or Schengen country.
  • You work in transport, such as airline staff or are in a maritime profession.
  • You work in diplomatic, consular, international organisations, military or civil protection or are a member of a humanitarian organisation.
  • You have a student visa for a country in the EU or Schengen zone.
  • You are a highly qualified worker or athlete whose work cannot be postponed or carried out remotely.
  • You are travelling for duly accredited imperative family reasons.
  • You are allowed entry due to force majeure or on humanitarian grounds.
  • And as mentioned earlier in the article, if you have a vaccination certificate that Spain’s Ministry of Health recognises, as well as for any accompanying minors (unless they’re under 12 years of age).

READ ALSO: When do I need to fill out Spain’s Covid health control form for travel?

SHOW COMMENTS