MADRID – Spain has opened its borders and from May 20, is set to welcome travellers from low incidence rate countries. This includes the United Kingdom.
However, following a news conference from Downing Street yesterday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted the new Indian variant could “pose a serious disruption” to the next stage of lockdown easing on 21 June.
Meanwhile, the UK will proceed to move to step three of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown on Monday. This will mean international travel will be possible from May 17, but subject to some limitations.
The UK government confirmed their traffic light system, detailing “green” countries where holiday makers can visit without quarantine on return. Currently, Spain has been rated “amber”. But as incidence rates continue to fall it is expected Spain will move to “green” at the next review.
However, this is also dependent on the UK being able to keep the Indian variant under control. Thus allowing them to move forward with their road map. At present, there appear to be pockets, mainly within the North West of England and parts of London that are more affected.
According to a tweet from Sky News, The Department of Health has said there is “no firm evidence yet to show this variant has any greater impact on severity of disease or evades the vaccine”.
Earlier in the week, Johnson confirmed the new variant “has been spreading”. He wants to take “all the cautious steps” and will “rule nothing out” to “grip it”.
“Green” list of low incidence rate countries
From Monday, parts of Scotland will remain at level 3, while most of the country moves to level 2. Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that for the moment, the countries on the “green” list will mirror those of England. This consists of those low incidence rate countries. According to The Herald, “This decision means, as of now, we have a consistent four nations position on international travel. I think that is positive – and has been made possible because the decisions the UK government arrived at are appropriately cautious”. Sturgeon continued, “I hope this continues to be the case. But I must stress the Scottish Government will continue to take the decisions we consider to be right for Scotland. We will not sign up to decisions that might put our progress at risk”.
Furthermore, Nicola Sturgeon reiterated that when it comes to holidays abroad. Her advice continues to be to err on the side of caution and she recommends staycations this summer.
So far, Scotland has only confirmed the “green” list of countries. But it is expected, at least initially that “amber” and “red” lists will be like those of England.
International travel rules
Wales have taken a similar position, mainly because it would be difficult to stop people travelling from airports in England. Therefore, the same international travel rules will come into effect from Monday. However, the Welsh government continues to advise that international travel should only be for essential reasons, and as such is best avoided.
Northern Ireland, on the other hand is not so clear where it stands regarding international travel. According to Belfast Live, Graham Keddie, Managing Director at Belfast International Airport, said they were “extremely disappointed” by the NI Executive’s announcement yesterday.
“We are urging them to reconsider and remove the current restrictions around the Common Travel Area and implement a clear ‘green travel’ list in line with England and Scotland,” he said.
Currently any country not on the “red” list, comes under “amber” for people wishing to travel from Northern Ireland. Therefore, it is recommended to travel only for essential purposes.
British holiday makers
Tourism in Spain is dependent mainly on British holiday makers, and as such, despite Tourism Minister, Reyes Maroto easing restrictions from May 20, everything very much hangs on the UK roadmap moving forward. Excluding last summer, Spain receives an average of around 18 million UK tourists each year. Due to the pandemic, this dropped to just over 3 million last year according to Statistica.
Most tourists visit mainland Spain between June and September, but without these tourists, it must certainly impact Spain´s economic recovery.