TRAVEL: Spain to allow unvaccinated UK teens to enter with PCR

The Spanish government on Thursday decided it will change its travel rules to allow unvaccinated 12 to 18 year olds from the United Kingdom to enter the country if they present a negative PCR test. 

The announcement by the Spanish government follows calls by regional governments and tourism groups to make an exception for British teens, as the rule was causing thousands of holiday cancellations by British families. Photo: Desiree Martin/AFP

British holidaymakers will be able to travel to Spain with their children aged 12 to 18, even if they are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19. 

The changes to Spain’s travel rules for young UK nationals were published on Friday in the country’s official state bulletin BOE, following negotiations between Spain’s Ministries of Health, Interior, Foreign Affairs and Industry, Commerce and Tourism.

Spanish authorities previously required Britons over the age of 12 to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to be able to visit Spain, a rule that’s been in place for all of 2021 for most non-EU/EEA nationals and since December 2021 for UK nationals who don’t reside in Spain.

But from Monday February 14th 2022, unvaccinated non-resident minors aged 12 to 17 (who haven’t turned 18 yet) travelling from the UK will be able to visit Spain if they present a negative PCR or other NAAT test taken within 72 hours before arrival in Spain. 

The announcement by Spanish authorities comes after weeks of appeals by some regional governments and business groups, who argued the vaccination rule for teens was causing thousands of holiday cancellations, especially among British families, thus having a negative impact on the country’s already struggling tourism industry. 

The Spanish government has decided to make just the exception for UK teen holidaymakers rather than all non-EU/EEA nationals, perhaps given that in pre-pandemic times they were by far Spain’s main tourism market (18 million Brits visited the country in 2019). 

Although the UK has had a somewhat successful vaccination rollout overall, only one in ten British children were legally able to enter Spain for tourism purposes since the rule came into force for them last December. Around 300,000 – roughly 12 percent – of 12 to 15-year-olds in the UK have received two doses.

The rule that still remains in place is that all adult UK nationals who don’t reside in Spain must be fully vaccinated to visit Spain for non-essential reasons such as tourism. There are only a handful of non-EU/EEA countries that are exempt from this rule given their favourable epidemiological situation.

British children under the age of 12 will also continue to be exempt from Spain’s vaccination and testing rules for travel. 

The BOE does not mention British 12 to 18 year olds specifically, but instead refers to section “K” of the Spanish Health Ministry’s guidelines for third countries, in which UK nationals are mentioned but there is no word yet on the new rule for teenage travellers. 

This confusing situation has led to different interpretations of the new rule in the Spanish press, with some suggesting the exemption applies to all non-EU/EEA teens and others just British 12 to 18 year olds. 

On Friday morning, The Local Spain contacted Spain’s Foreign Affairs Ministry for clarification, with a representative confirming that the new rules applies to all non-EU/Schengen 12 to 18 year olds, not just British ones. 

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Spain eases Covid entry for unvaccinated tourists

Spain on Saturday eased Covid entry rules for unvaccinated tourists from outside the European Union, in a boost for the key tourism sector ahead of the peak summer holidays.

Spain eases Covid entry for unvaccinated tourists

Until now travellers from outside the bloc — including Spain’s main tourism market Britain — could only enter with proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19.

But as of Saturday visitors from outside of the EU will also be allowed to enter Spain with a negative Covid test result, the transport ministry said in a statement.

PCR tests must be carried out in the 72 hours prior to departure to Spain or an antigen test 24 hours prior to departure.

Tourism Minister Maria Reyes Maroto said the “new phase of the pandemic” meant the country was able to relax the rules by equating non-EU travellers with those of the bloc.

“This is excellent news, much awaited by the tourism sector, which will make it easier for tourists outside of Europe to visit us during the high season,” she added in the statement.

Children under the age of 12 are exempt from submitting any type of certificate.

With sunny beaches and a rich architectural heritage, Spain was the world’s second most visited country before the pandemic, with 83.5 million foreign visitors in 2019.

But international travel restrictions related to the pandemic brought Spain’s tourism sector to its knees in 2020 as it welcomed just 19 million tourists.

The figure rose to 31.1 million in 2021, far below the government forecast of 45 million arrivals.

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