The British in Spain – view of a medical practitioner

by Deborah Cater
British in Spain can enjoy the warm spring evenings

For a personal impression of life in Spain and Covid, InSpain.news asks Dr Jan Otto Landman to share his views with us. He lives and works in Spain (Costa del Sol), arriving more than 20 years ago. His medical practice is in Torremolinos.

We are currently enjoying an exuberant spring in southern Spain with temperatures well above 20 degrees. The evenings are also getting softer again so that it is pleasant to stay on the terraces that are open until half past ten in the evening. Then put on a mask and quickly go home because at eleven o’clock the curfew starts. Well, with bars, restaurants, shops and schools open for quite some time, it is currently all going well here in Spain. 

Easter 2021 in Spain 

What will not take place this year is the celebration of Semana Santa, the Easter week that starts next week. Semana Santa is an important event, especially in Andalucía where the processions annually draw millions of spectators from home and abroad. A serious breach of tradition and the income that normally goes with it. One consolation: it will probably start raining during Easter week, so that misery is spared the brotherhoods who are busy all year round preparing the processions. Because: no processions when it rains. 

The Spanish government has partially suspended free movement between provinces for the coming period (March 26th – April 9th) to prevent unnecessary movements during Easter week and thus a possible increase in the spread of the virus. There are two exceptions, we are allowed to leave the province in Andalucía to go skiing or hunting. Well, the politicians will have thought, we cannot take everything away from the people … 

Infection rates

Corona measures have been tightened up again in several European countries in recent weeks. The coming weeks will be important for the development of the pandemic in Spain. The number of infections per day seems to have reached a low point and in some regions it is already increasing slightly. The number of infections in the last two weeks per 100,000 inhabitants for some European countries: Portugal 71, United Kingdom 118, Spain 129, Ireland 150, Germany 199, Belgium 428, the Netherlands 471, Italy 529, France 545, and Sweden 580. 

What is still difficult to understand are the low contamination rates in Spain and Portugal when you compare with other European countries, while at least in Spain the measures can be called “mild” with schools, restaurants and shops largely open. Although, as mentioned before, it is difficult to compare measures and their effect between countries, the differences remain fascinating. It is also striking that Spain has followed the same curve as the United Kingdom for the number of infections detected, while the number of vaccinations administered is far behind what the British have achieved. In the UK, more than 30 million people will have been vaccinated by the end of this month, and at this rate there may be herd immunity by the end of April. 

 Life for Britons in Spain is changing

Last week, Spain lifted the entry restrictions for British people, the British variant of the virus is now the most common in Spain. At much the same time, the British government announced hefty fines on non-essential (read: holiday) trips abroad up to 30 June. A bit premature this date because if no variants emerge against which the vaccines are not effective, it is to be expected that the United Kingdom will already have the pandemic under control by May. Last summer, Great Britain also led the way in banning holiday travel, which raised suspicion of economic motives. The chance that Brexit will end in an economic “disaster” is not inconceivable, so it helps in any case if the British spend their money in their own country. 

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These are difficult times for Britons who have a warm heart for Spain. Is there on the one hand the prohibition to go on holiday to Spain, on the other hand, life has not become any easier for Britons living in Spain. Several British newspapers report a large-scale return of British people who have lived in Spain for years. Spain has about 360,000 Britons who live here permanently, making the British the largest foreign population group.

A British exodus would have consequences

As many as 1 million Britons own a second home on a Spanish Costa. Since Brexit was adopted in 2016, more Britons have left Spain than were added, and now that Brexit has become a fact, a true exodus seems to have started. British moving companies never have been so busy. The reason? Spanish officials seem (according to British newspapers) to enjoy themselves with the new rules that apply to the British now that they are no longer part of the European Union.

Britons who own a second home here are now allowed to stay in Spain for a maximum of 90 days per six months unless they become officially resident. But becoming a resident comes with a lot of extra costs and paperwork. For example, health insurance must be arranged, a Spanish driving license must be applied for, for which an exam must also be taken and tax must be paid in Spain. Furthermore, one must be able to demonstrate a minimum income of more than 2000 Euro per month plus 500 for each additional family member. British pets can no longer just enter the country, this will involve high costs and paperwork. 

Golden Visa

In 2013, the “Golden Visa” law was introduced in Spain. With this law, Spain, suffering from a long-term real estate crisis, hoped to entice wealthy citizens from non-EU countries to invest in Spanish real estate. With an investment of at least €500,000, a visa was obtained that could later be converted into permanent residence. The arrival of wealthy Russians, Chinese and inhabitants of oil states was mainly expected. In stark contrast to this is the treatment that British residents of Spain are now facing. You would expect that this large group of people, who have contributed greatly to the Spanish economy for decades, would be treated more favourably. 

A massive departure of British from Spain will certainly have consequences for the local economies on the Spanish Costas. In addition, many of these people will put their Spanish homes up for sale. This could also have consequences for all the new apartments that are now being diligently built all over the Costas, which could well yield a lot less than had been hoped for. It would be appropriate and sensible to lend a helping hand to the British residents of Spain in the paperwork that is now coming their way. Golden Visa may have been a nice idea, but slaughtering the hen with the golden eggs seems a lot less sensible. 

This was it again, now a week and a half of vacation. The practice will open again on Monday 5 April. Happy Easter!  

Jan Otto Landman, MD, PhD

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