British prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce details next week of a framework that will allow holidaymakers to resume trips abroad. According to newspaper reports, on Easter Monday Johnson is likely to outline a “traffic light” system as part of a government roadmap for the possible legal resumption of leisure travel from 17 May – including to such popular European tourist resorts as Murcia.
Countries granted a “green” light would be those where infection rates are extremely low or experiencing a steady and sustained decline, and which have effective vaccination programmes and no prevalent or significant “variants of concern”.
Currently, even though countries such as Spain have eased restrictions on travel from the UK, Britons are banned from leaving the country for a holiday, and face fines of up to £5,000 if caught breaking the rules.
At the end of March, Spain announced that it had lifted its ban on air and sea arrivals from the UK, introduced in December in response to concerns about the spread of a new coronavirus variant initially detected in Britain. Passengers are still required to provide proof of a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before travel, and a temporary restriction on “non-essential” travel has been extended to 30 April.
In recent days there have been reports of “picaresque” attempts by British holiday home owners to fly to Spain ostensibly to put their properties on the market for sale or rent, or to oversee “urgent” maintenance work. There have also been stories of dozens of travellers being blocked by Spanish airport customs officers and forced to return home to the UK on the same plane – because of confusion about their residency documentation or other eligibility criteria to enter Spain.
This prompted the British Embassy to release a statement noting, “If you are in the UK and considering travelling to Spain or are in Spain and have friends or family wanting to visit, you should be aware of the continuing travel restrictions on both leaving the UK and entering Spain.
“UK nationals must make sure that they meet both the requirements to leave the UK and those to enter Spain, bearing in mind that they are not the same. From 30 March, entry to Spain will only be granted to those passengers who can demonstrate that their journey is essential, as well as to those who are already legally resident in Spain.
“Entering merely to visit, even if you have a second home here, is not a justified reason for entry. You may be questioned on arrival by Spanish border authorities to ensure you meet the entry requirements and they will only grant entry if they are satisfied that your journey to Spain is essential and reserve the right to deny passage.”
Daily updated information is available on the UK government’s “Travel Advice” page.
Responding to media reports that, post-Brexit, Spain would be deporting Britons living illegally in the country, the British embassy quoted a ministry of inclusion spokesperson who said, “The Spanish government is working to provide maximum legal certainty for British citizens resident in Spain… Spain is the country of residence of the largest community of UK nationals in the EU.
“The Spanish Government has no plans to deport British citizens who have made Spain their home and, for this reason, Spain has been one of the first EU countries to establish a documentation procedure under the Withdrawal Agreement, which consists of a declaratory system to apply for the new residence permit (TIE). We remind British citizens that, although there is no time limit, it is important to make this application as soon as possible as, among other things, it will facilitate the administrative processing and the crossing of the external borders of the European Union.”
Visitors to Murcia this summer will be able to take advantage of free COVID-19 insurance coverage and, hopefully, a new Digital Green Certificate that enhances safe travel with minimal restrictions.