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TRAVEL: Will Spain change its Covid restrictions ahead of Easter?

As Easter week fast approaches, many residents and tourists are eager to know whether Spain's Covid restrictions will be eased or tightened ahead of the holiday period. Here’s what you need to know about the current infections, restrictions and travel rules and whether they’re likely to change.

TRAVEL: Will Spain change its Covid restrictions ahead of Easter?
Tourists enjoy a sunny day at Cala Tadira beach in Ibiza. Will Spain's Covid rules change before the Easter holidays? (Photo by JAIME REINA / AFP)

Easter week, Semana Santa as it is called in Spanish, runs from Sunday April 10th to Sunday 17th in 2022.

For the Spanish tourism industry, this year’s Holy Week could officially mark the return to normal for a sector that’s been gravely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, although war in Ukraine and rising global inflation are proving to be new setbacks. 

Nonetheless, after two years of coronavirus dominating the country’s travel and domestic rules, can national and international holidaymakers expect the rules to change before or during the Easter break?

A seventh wave?

After a record-breaking sixth wave which accounted for half of all Covid cases in Spain since the pandemic began (5 out of 10 million), the country’s fortnightly infection rate dropped continuously throughout February and March and has since plateaued at around 450 cases per 100,000 people. 

Spain isn’t completely in the clear yet in terms of infections however, as the latest Health Ministry data reveals that the ‘Stealth’ Omicron subvariant is now the dominant strain in Spain. 

Whether or not it causes another spike in cases and thus a seventh coronavirus wave is key, as this could potentially affect whether Spain’s Covid restrictions are further eased or tightened.

READ ALSO: ‘Stealth’ Omicron cases rise in Spain: What you should know

Most health experts in Spain remain wary and believe the population shouldn’t drop its guard despite the currently positive epidemiological situation. 

They also tend to agree that if there were to be a seventh wave in Spain, this would likely come after Easter and not during, as a result of increased travel during the holiday period. 

READ ALSO: What happens when tourists get Covid-19 in Spain?

Face masks and other domestic restrictions

Spanish regions have virtually lifted all previous Covid restrictions such as capacity limits, curfews, limited opening hours, the Covid health pass and bar, restaurant and nightclub closures. 

Spain’s health authorities have also just announced that from Monday March 28th 2022, people in Spain who test positive for Covid-19 but are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms will no longer be required to quarantine for seven days, something to keep in mind for tourists in Spain, although they won’t be able to fly back to their countries if they are still infected with Covid-19.

The one important Covid rule that remains in place is the requirement of face masks in indoor public spaces, which  in early March Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez promised would be removed “very soon”. 

On April 6th, the Spanish government proposed that masks no longer be required in most indoor public settings from Tuesday April 19th 2022, just after the Easter holidays rather than during as had been suggested. 

 

Unvaccinated non-EU travellers

Travel to Spain by EU citizens and residents has been fairly straightforward throughout 2021 and 2022, but for the vast majority of unvaccinated non-EU/Schengen travellers it’s still not possible to enter Spain. 

On March 29th, the Spanish government extended again temporary restrictions for non-essential travel from most third countries for another month until April 30th 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 in April.

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

Spanish authorities have recently eased the rules to allow unvaccinated third-country teens in as well as allowing non-EU/Schengen nationals who can show proof of having recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months to also enter.

But the Spanish government has decided to not go one step further and allow all unvaccinated non-EU/Schengen adults to enter the country ahead of Easter.

Other EU nations such as Italy, Belgium and Finland now allow unvaccinated travellers who present a negative Covid-19 test result to enter their countries. 

Conclusions 

With less than two weeks until Easter in Spain, the chances of Covid-19 infections spiralling and a seventh wave developing ahead of the holidays appears slim. 

This, together with the Spanish government’s approach towards treating Covid-19 like an endemic disease similar to seasonal influenza, should guarantee that even if cases were to rise ahead of Semana Santa, domestic Covid rules will not be tightened.

Nonetheless, the indoor face mask rule will be lifted just after Easter rather than during the holiday period as initially suggested.

Due to the drop in tourism caused by the war in Ukraine, some had hoped Spain would keep in mind the economic benefits of easing their rule for unvaccinated third-country nationals ahead of the Easter holidays, but the same rules are in place for them in April

The government has been willing to bend the rules previously to allow unvaccinated British tourists in, but not this time. 

READ ALSO: What are the Covid travel rules for international arrivals in Spain in April?

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TOURISM

Spain’s sharp rise in tourists still below pre-pandemic levels

The number of foreign tourists visiting Spain rose exponentially this summer as Covid-19 travel restrictions were lifted but arrivals remained below the level seen before the pandemic, new official figures show.

Spain's sharp rise in tourists still below pre-pandemic levels

Spain, the world’s second most visited country before the pandemic, welcomed 9.1 million foreigners in July, and 8.8 million in August, national statistics institute INE said.

That represents a 106.2 per cent increase in arrivals in July from the same month last year, and a 69.7 per cent jump in August from the same year-ago period, it added.

But the total number of arrivals during the two months –17.9 million – remained lower than the record 20 million seen in 2019 before the pandemic-related travel restrictions ravaged the global tourism industry.

Tourism Minister María Reyes Maroto called the arrival figures for the two peak holiday months “extraordinary”.

“We are facing an autumn without inflation and the uncertainty caused by the war” in Ukraine hurting the sector’s recovery “for now,” she added in a statement.

During the first eight months of the year Spain welcomed 48 million foreign tourists, equivalent to 83 per cent of its pre-pandemic level.

The largest number of visitors during the period were British, accounting for more than 10 million arrivals, followed by French, who made up seven million visits, and Germans, who accounted for 2.3 million.

In the same period, the most popular destinations were the northeastern region of Catalonia, the Balearic Isles, the Canary Islands and Andalusia in the south, the INE said.

Spain in 2019 hit a record for the seventh year in a row, welcoming a total of 83.5 million foreign tourists. Only France received more that year.

The number of foreign visitors plunged to 19 million the following year due to the pandemic.

Last year only 31.1 million foreigners visited Spain, well below the 45 million expected by the government.

Tourism accounts for some 12 per cent of Spain’s gross domestic output and the drop in arrivals hit the economy, the eurozone’s fourth largest, hard.

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