Murcia and other regional tourism authorities are hoping Spain will be upgraded to the “green list” when the UK reviews its traffic light system for overseas holiday travel in June.
By then, the country will also have been able to evaluate its first month of more relaxed nationwide mobility and COVID-19 protocols, following the lifting of the State of Alarm on 9 May; and the vaccination program for Spaniards and foreign residents will be well-advanced.
In addition, with Spain one of the first countries likely to adopt the European Union’s Digital Green Certificate (earmarked to be formally known as the “EU COVID-19 Certificate”), UK tourists could be back enjoying holidays on the Costa Blanca before the peak summer season starts in June.
UK “Green List”
The first key for international tourism to re-open in Spain, and for British visitors to be able to fly into Corvera Airport Murcia once again, hinges on the initial three-weekly review of the UK’s traffic light system, which determines which English tourists can book overseas flights for leisure purposes.
At the moment, only 12 countries and territories have been granted “green light” status from 17 May, including four in Europe: Portugal, Gibraltar, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Spain is one of the countries on the “amber” list, which means Britons are only permitted to travel aboard for justified non-leisure reasons, and even then they have to self-isolate at home for 10 days on their return to England (although this period can be reduced with a negative result, under the existing test-to-release scheme).
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not yet joined the system, but transport secretary Grant Shapps says their chief medical officers are in agreement about the core principles behind the initiative.
Under the system, countries and territories are categorised as green, amber or red, based on the number of COVID-19 cases and the success of their vaccine rollouts.
Travellers to destinations in all three categories are still required to take a private COVID-19 test before returning home to the UK (either lateral flow or PCR is accepted), complete a passenger locator form online, and take a second test on or before day two of their arrival back in England.
For “green list” destinations, travellers can avoid the requirement for self-isolation, while those returning from “red list” destinations have to go into hotel quarantine, at their own expense.
Spain’s ministry of tourism said the decision had no immediate effect, as restrictions still applied for non-essential travel from the UK, but a spokesperson reiterated the government’s “conviction that this summer it will be possible for British citizens to spend their holidays in Spain” – and in June “we will be able to start the reactivation of international travel”.
State of Alarm Lifted
Following the lifting of Spain’s State of Alarm (or State of Emergency) over the weekend, the country’s 17 regional governments (plus the autonomous enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in northern Africa) now have the authority and flexibility to implement such measures as partial lockdowns and to tighten their own controls, albeit in some cases requiring judicial approval.
The national overnight curfew has been lifted in most regions (including Murcia), retail shopping hours and hospitality occupancy rates (restaurants, etc.) have been expanded, and limits on social gatherings (at home or in public places) have been eased.
Restrictions on travel from one region to another have also been lifted, meaning visitors arriving and based in Murcia, for example, can now travel freely throughout Spain (pending any specific regional or municipal updates if circumstances change) – including to the Canary and Balearic Islands.
Face masks are still obligatory in public spaces, social distancing remains in place, and hygiene and air ventilation rules have to be observed at all times.
In the Murcia region, all non-essential activity (i.e. bars, restaurants, nightclubs and leisure venues but not pharmacies and petrol stations ) are obliged to close between midnight and 6am.
Up-to-date information about travel to Spain, and coronavirus protocols, is available on the GOV.UK website.
The 12 countries and territories on the green list are:
- Falkland Islands
- Faroe Islands
- New Zealand
- South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands
- St Helena, Tristan de Cunha and Ascension Island