Will Spain require PCRs from vaccinated EU travellers?

Following fears over the Omicron variant and an increase in Covid-19 cases in the run-up to Christmas, Spain is considering requiring a PCR test from EU travellers visiting over the holidays.

A lady waits with her bags at an airport.
At the moment, travellers from the EU that have been fully vaccinated for more than 14 days can travel to Spain with the Covid health pass. Photo by Pau Barrena/AFP

Rising Covid cases in Europe and the arrival of the Omicron variant have led to more international travel restrictions to and from Spain during the festive season.

At the moment, travellers from the EU that have been fully vaccinated for more than 14 days can travel to Spain with the Covid health pass.

If you have not been vaccinated, whether you need to take a PCR or antigen test 48 hours prior will depend on which EU country you’re travelling from.

KEY POINTS: What are the new Covid travel rules between Spain and the UK?

But while Spain is, for the moment, seeing a much smaller resurgence of the virus compared to many of its neighbours and is in favour of easy and open travel for vaccinated people, there could be more travel changes ahead of Christmas.

The Health Minister, Carolina Darias, is thought to be considering whether to require a negative PCR test from vaccinated EU travellers, a step that the neighbouring country of Portugal has already taken.

Darias did not offer any further information on the subject on Tuesday when she arrived at a meeting of European health ministers taking place in Brussels.

But she said any decisions would be taken in coordination with other member states, in line with the bloc’s agreement to allow vaccinated European residents to travel freely within the Schengen area.

READ ALSO: What are the travel rules between Spain and Portugal this December?

However, the recent spike in cases and the emergence of the Omicron variant has led some countries to require an additional negative PCR test or a compulsory quarantine as well as proof of vaccination.

Portugal was the first country to require negative PCR tests from travellers wanting to cross the border into the country this Christmas.

While it’s up to each individual country how to manage the pandemic, any severe restrictions on movement within the EU seem to go against the agreement to coordinate travel using the European health pass, which was agreed on back in July.

When asked if Spain was considering a similar restrictions ahead of the increased number of visitors expected during the holiday season, Darias did not provide a clear answer.

“Whichever action we take on a European level must be coordinated with the EU. Spain will be in line with what the European Union decides,” said Darias.

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Could Spain’s Vueling be the next airline to face strikes?

Cabin crew for the low-cost Spanish airline have threatened to follow the example of their counterparts at Ryanair and Easyjet and stop working during August unless they receive a pay rise.

Could Spain's Vueling be the next airline to face strikes?

Summer air travel in Spain and Europe continues to be marred by problems ranging from flight cancellations, delays, lost luggage and general travel chaos, involving popular airlines Ryanair, EasyJet, Lufthsansa, Swiss and Brussels Airlines.

The latest airline which could be hit with setbacks is Barcelona-headquartered Vueling.

On Tuesday, between 300 and 400 of its employees protested outside the offices of Vueling’s holding company IAG at Barcelona’s El Prat Airport, calling for a 6.5 percent rise in their salaries and better conditions relating to work-life balance.

The 6.5 percent figure corresponds to the rise in Spain’s Consumer Price Index at the end of 2021, the highest in 29 years, with many workers arguing they struggle to make ends meet in the Catalan capital with what Vueling pays them. 

“If the company doesn’t change its stance, we’ll soon suggest a strike” warned Guadalupe Romero, spokesperson for Stavla, one of the unions which represents Vueling’s Spain-based workers. 

“We agreed to put negotiations on hold during the pandemic due to other urgent matters, including furlough negotiations, but now Covid-19 is behind us and the same problems exist.

“The current agreement is outdated, and inflation has made it impossible to make ends meet. Added to that are the exhausting work hours”.

Vueling management and their employees have been discussing the conditions of a new collective agreement for the past weeks, but so far no new wages deal has been reached. 

A key meeting scheduled for Friday August 5th at Spain’s Mediation and Arbitration Service (SIMA) could decide whether Vueling cabin crew go ahead with the stoppage this month.