Is it safe to travel to Spain?

Helen Coffey
·4-min read
People enjoy the warm weather on the beach in Barcelona, Spain: AP
People enjoy the warm weather on the beach in Barcelona, Spain: AP

Just two weeks after the UK government gave the all-clear for travellers to visit Spain without the need to quarantine for two weeks upon their return to England, Northern Ireland and Wales, the popular holiday destination is struggling with a wave of new outbreaks of coronavirus.

Is Spain still safe for Brits to visit? And will holidays be hampered by restrictions? Here’s everything you need to know.

How many new cases have there been?

On 8 June, Spain recorded its lowest number of new daily cases since the pandemic began, at 167; a huge spike in infections on 20 July saw the number soar to 4,581 new cases in one day, the highest it had been since early April.

According to the Foreign Office (FCO), a “small number” of local outbreaks of Covid-19 have been identified in Spain.

One of these has affected parts of Catalonia, including the hugely popular city of Barcelona. The Catalonia region as a whole has been hit hardest in the last week, with 4,465 new cases recorded.

Other tourist hotspots plagued by outbreaks are found in the Costa del Sol, where Marbella has reported its first case in 11 days and Malaga recorded 23 new cases in just 48 hours.

A town in Murcia has seen 55 people test positive after frequenting a bar.

However, most regions are still seeing a low number of new weekly cases, according to an interactive map from the Spanish government.

The worst affected provinces currently are located in the north east of the country: Lleida, Huesca and Zaragoza.

Where are there new restrictions in Spain?

Although restrictions have been gradually easing across the country, the new flare-ups are leading to local lockdowns in certain destinations.

The town of Totana in Murcia in southeastern Spain has been shut off after 55 people tested positive.

No one is allowed to enter, and the town’s 32,000 residents have been ordered not to leave while all 300 people who frequented a bar where the outbreak happened are tested.

Health Minister Manuel Villegas told local media it’s likely the number of Covid-19 cases “will increase significantly” in the next few days.

It’s the first place in Spain that’s been forced to return to Phase 1 of the country’s road map out of lockdown.

In the wider Murcia region, nightclubs have been told to close, and gatherings are limited to 15 people, according to The Local.

In the Valencia region, the town of Gandía has also ordered the shutdown of clubs after a fresh outbreak resulted in more than 70 infections.

Residents in Aragón have been asked to stay at home following a flare-up of the virus; most bars and nightclubs have closed again as the area reverted to Phase 2 of Spain’s pandemic plan.

There are capacity restrictions on clubs and bars across the Balearic Islands, including on Ibiza and Mallorca.

In Galicia, “botellones” – which refers to the practice of buying alcohol at a supermarket and congregating to drink together in a public space – have been banned.

Authorities in the Basque Country have put a cap on the number of people allowed into bars and clubs and made mask-wearing mandatory at all times.

Meanwhile, in parts of Barcelona metropolitan area and the areas of La Noguera and El Segria, local authorities have asked residents to leave their accommodation only for “essential activities”. Meetings of more than 10 people in public or private are prohibited, and the authorities have ordered the closures of nightclubs, gyms, plus introduced restrictions for the capacity and opening hours of bars and restaurants. These measures will be in place until 1 August.

Will I have to quarantine?

You will not have to quarantine upon arrival in Spain, nor when you return to England, Northern Ireland or Wales.

However, those returning to Scotland will still have to spend two weeks in self-isolation – the country released its own slightly different list of exempt destinations, and Spain didn’t make the cut.

There has been speculation that Spain could be removed from the rest of the UK’s travel corridor list too when it’s reviewed if Covid-19 cases continue to rise there.

I have a holiday booked to Spain – can I cancel?

Yes, but it’s unlikely you’d be able to get any of your money back. This is certainly the case if you booked your accommodation and transport separately.

The only circumstance in which you may be refunded is if you’ve booked a package holiday to a destination in Spain where you can only leave your accommodation for “essential activities”; for example, in certain parts of Barcelona.

By law you have the right to expect that the holiday you booked and paid for matches the description given to you when you bought it.

If the holiday doesn’t match how it was described, The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangement Regulations 2018 give you the right to ask your tour operator to put it right and – if it’s unable to – claim compensation. You could certainly argue that having to spent the week in a hotel room does not match the description of the holiday you bought.

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