Canary Islands: FCDO fails to change travel advice risking ‘chaos’ for holidaymakers

Travel corridors: Expert discusses ‘lack of transparency’

The Canary Islands were hailed as one of the most popular winter holiday destinations in recent months, as the only place in Spain Britons could visit without risk of quarantine on their return home. A “devastating” blow was served on Thursday evening when Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps announced the islands would no longer be a feature of the UK travel corridor list due to “increasing” weekly cases.

Following the news, travel expert Paul Charles described it as “utterly devastating news” for both “consumers” and “travel firms”.

Now, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has issued a new warning for Britons who are still eyeing the winter sun destination.

Despite this, it has not yet advised against travel to the holiday hotspot, risking “chaos” for travellers.

At the time of writing, according to the FCDO: “Spain, including the Balearic Islands but excluding the Canary Islands, based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks.”

Travel experts from Which? have slammed the Government for not “coordinating” FCDO advice.

Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said: “It is hugely unfair for the government to remove the Canary Islands from its travel corridors list due to high rates of coronavirus, without also updating the FCDO’s advice to reflect this.

“Package holiday customers who wish to cancel because they cannot quarantine on arrival back to the UK will struggle to get a refund, as operators are less likely to cancel without a change to FCDO advice.

“The government must ensure that it coordinates its approach to changing travel advice, while travel operators must offer flexible rebooking options to those who cannot travel, to prevent causing further chaos for holidaymakers and leaving them thousands of pounds out of pocket as a result.”

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However, the FCDO has issued updates regarding entry requirements and the new rules on quarantining upon return to the UK

“If you are returning to the UK from the Canary Islands on or after 4am on 12 December, you will need to self-isolate on your return,” the FCDO states.

It adds: “You must still self-isolate if returning to the UK from any other part of Spain.”

For those who still plan to go ahead with travel to the Canary or Balearic Islands, or any other part of Spain, the FCDO lists the strict entry requirements now in place.

“On arrival, travellers entering Spain from the UK will not be required to self-isolate,” states the FCDO.

“However, all passengers (excluding children under the age of six years old) travelling to Spanish airports and ports from ‘risk’ countries (as determined by the European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control) will be required to present a negative PCR test taken within no more than 72 hours prior to arrival, in order to enter the country.

“The UK is currently on the ‘risk’ countries list and passengers arriving from the UK are therefore subject to this requirement.”

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Travellers are also required to fill out a mandatory “Health Control Form” which should include the passenger name, passport number or ID card number, test date, name and contact details of the testing centre, testing method applied (i.e. PCR) and test results.

Visitors may also be asked additional questions by authorities upon arrival.

There is a slight difference for those visiting the Canary Islands.

Earlier this week, the Canary Islands government ruled Britons would be able to provide alternative tests in order to enter the country.

While PCR tests will still be accepted, British tourists will also be allowed to enter by offering a rapid antigen test which is reportedly a fraction of the price of PCRs.

A statement issued by the Canary government today confirmed: “This decree is based on the powers derived from the State of Alarm – whose delegated competent authority is the regional president – in the condition of Ultraperipheral Region (RUP) that the Canary Islands have within the European Union; the Statute of Autonomy; the indications of the Public Health and microbiology technicians; and the accumulated experience with the tourist law decree that establishes the obligation to present a certificate of antigen test or PCR with a negative result in regulated accommodation establishments in the Canary Islands.

“In this sense, the pioneering system promoted by the Government of the Canary Islands has proven to be reliable, during the last five weeks, in which around 250,000 travellers have arrived in the islands, there have been very few cases of tourists who tested positive.

“The Government of the Canary Islands maintains negotiations within the framework of an open understanding with the Ministry of Health to harmonise the regional standard with the national one.”

In the Canary Islands, there are also specific rules for visitors who are staying in hotels.

The FCDO explains: “In addition to the nationwide requirement to provide a negative COVID-19 PCR (swab) test on entry to Spain, if you’re travelling to the Canary Islands and are booked into regulated tourist accommodation, you will be obliged to present an official, negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours earlier, when checking in to your accommodation. [You must also] download and activate the Radar COVID notification app throughout your stay on the islands, and for 15 days after your return home.”

Britons must also follow a number of strict rules when visiting any part of Spain.

These include the use of face masks when in public, varying curfews across all Spanish regions, and social distancing regulations.

The FCDO advises tourists to “follow the advice of the local authorities on how best to protect themselves and others, including any measures that they bring in to control the virus.”

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