Spain now requires Covid certificates for arrivals from China

All passengers arriving from China must now show a valid Covid-19 certificate or negative test to enter Spain, and third-country nationals without one could be denied entry.

Spain now requires Covid certificates for arrivals from China
Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP

Spain has beefed up its border rules to combat the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak in China this week.

After initially saying it wouldn’t require a negative test, then quickly backtracking on that pledge and introducing visual and temperature checks on December 31st, then a negative test, it has now been confirmed that Covid-19 certificates will be required for all arrivals from the Chinese mainland and that Spanish border guards will have the right to deny entry to third-party nationals without one.

READ ALSO: UPDATE: How Spain is reacting to China’s Covid-19 spike

Since China dropped its strict zero-Covid policy three weeks ago after almost three years in place, the number of infections in the Asian superpower has spiked, with experts in the UK estimating 9,000 deaths per day as of December 30th.

The Chinese government has since allowed Chinese nationals to travel overseas, and countries around the world are concerned about the prospect of a new variant spreading and reigniting a pandemic many epidemiologists considered to be over.

According to the official state bulletin (BOE) released by the government on Wednesday, the measures are being introduced due to “a significant deterioration in the epidemiological situation regarding COVID-19 in the People’s Republic of China that coincides with the elimination of travel restrictions in this country [China], as of January 8th, 2023, and the celebration of its new year, on January 22nd.”

The period around Chinese New Year is a traditionally travel-intensive time.

“This scenario constitutes a serious epidemiological risk that makes it advisable to be extremely vigilant and to adopt preventive measures to avoid, in particular, the potential spread of possible new variants,” the BOE adds.

Given these recent developments, the Spanish Ministry of Health has decided to adopt urgent measures to keep on top of the situation.

Covid certificate checks

In a resolution established on December 30th, 2022, sanitary controls were established at the border for passengers arriving from China, consisting of “documentary, visual and temperature controls and the performance of a diagnostic test for active infections at the point of entry.”

Now, in addition, Covid certificates will be checked for “any third-country national arriving at any airport located in the Kingdom of Spain on direct flights from airports located in China,” according to the BOE.

Certificates will first be checked at the point of origin, that is, in China, and then again at the Spanish border by health workers. Certificates must include the complete EU vaccination series, or a recognised equivalent, or the negative result of a recently taken test.

Third-country nationals without either will be refused entry into Spain, with a few exceptions.


According to the BOE, “people belonging to one of the following categories will be exempted from the refusal of entry measure.”

  • Residents of the European Union; Schengen associated states; Andorra, Monaco, the Vatican, or San Marino who are en route to that country, with documentary proof.
  • Holders of a long-stay visa issued by a EU member state or a Schengen associated state travelling to that country.
  • Crews of national and international transport teams.
  • Travellers with documentary proof of force majeure or distress, or whose entry is permitted on other humanitarian grounds.
  • Minors under 12 years of age.


In terms of which vaccination certificates will be accepted, Spain is following the guidelines established in its broader pre-exisiting vaccination strategy, so: AstraZeneca/Oxford, SanofiGSK, Johnson & Johnson/Janssen, Pfizer/BioNTech, CureVac and Moderna/Lonza.


In the case of a diagnostic test certificates, the tests must be (NAAT), including PCR, whose sample has been obtained within 72 hours prior to departure, or antigen tests approved by the EU and obtained within 24 hours prior to departure.

Recovery certificates 

In terms of recovery certificates, Spain’s pre-existing guidelines are also being followed. A recognised certificate issued at least 11 days after the first positive NAAT or antigen detection test, carried out by health professionals or qualified personnel, will be accepted. The certificate will then be valid for 180 days after the date of the first positive diagnostic test result, according to the guidelines.

These restrictions will be in place until February 15th, but as we’ve all learnt throughout the last few years of pandemic restricted travel, things can quickly change.

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How Spain’s air traffic control strike could hit your travel plans

Many of Spain’s air traffic controllers have been called to strike over the next month. Find out which dates and which airports will be affected.

How Spain's air traffic control strike could hit your travel plans

The workers’ unions USCA and CCOO have called around 162 air traffic controllers working at privatised control towers around the country to organise walkouts throughout February, affecting 28.5 percent of all air traffic in Spain.

The walkouts began on Monday January 30th and will continue every Monday until February 27th during “all work shifts that begin between 00:00 and 24:00,” they stated. Specifically, the strike days will occur on February 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th.

The airports affected by the strike will be A Coruña, Alicante-Elche, Castellón, Cuatro Vientos (Madrid), El Hierro, Fuerteventura, Ibiza, Jerez, Lanzarote, La Palma, Lleida, Murcia, Sabadell, Seville, Valencia and Vigo.

The Ministry of Transport has set minimum services depending on the type of route, which reaches 100 percent for emergency flights, the transfer of citizens or foreigners guarded by police officers and the transport of post and perishable products.  

For commercial flights with routes originating or ending at non-peninsular airports, the minimum services range between 52 percent from Lleida to 84 percent from La Coruña, depending on the estimated occupancy.

In the case of routes between foreign or Spanish cities whose travel time by road is at least five hours, the minimum services will be between 44 percent from La Palma and 57 percent from Alicante.  

For routes that can be replaced by other means of public transport in less than five hours, the minimum guaranteed services will be between 18 percent from Castellón and 30 percent from Vigo.

The workers are asking for a 5.5 percent salary increase but the proposal offered by their employers, which is 2 percent in 2023 and 2.5 percent in 2024, is “very far from their demands”.

The USCA and CCOO unions have decided to call the stoppages due to “the failure of the negotiations” with the Business Association of Civil Air Traffic Providers of the Liberalised Market (APCTA). They finally gave up trying to find a solution after several “unfruitful” meetings.