Travellers from several African countries will now have to show a COVID-19 negative test when entering Spain even if they have been fully vaccinated, although no cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in the country, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.
Spain has also tightened restrictions for travellers coming from the UK, who will have to present a valid vaccination certificate to enter.
On Saturday, Spain’s official Gazette published the new guidelines approved by the government, imposing entry requirements for citizens from the UK, Namibia, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
With this decision, Spain has joined seven other EU countries that have decided to enact new restrictions to contain the spread of the Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant in Europe, considered highly contagious due to its 30 different mutations, EFE reported.
“We will make an agreement to restrict flights from South Africa and Botswana to the next cabinet meeting, and also for other countries, but in principle, it will be for these two,” Health Minister Carolina Darias told state broadcaster RTVE on Friday.
“We are also going to require not just vaccination (against COVID-19) for (passengers from) these countries, but also an antigen or PCR test”, she added.
Spain has no direct commercial flight connections with South Africa or Botswana, but passengers can reach the country from these African nations through connecting flights, private planes, or cargo flights.
To prevent the spread of the new variant and have a safe Christmas, some Spanish regions have decided to toughen measures.
Catalonia has extended the mandatory use of the COVID-19 certificate (until now only in force for nightlife activities) to restaurants, gyms, and nursing homes.
Navarre, in the northeast, decided on Saturday to implement the same measure, EFE reported.
The southern region of Andalusia is mulling the introduction of a COVID-19 pass that will also apply to the hospitality sector, Spanish media reported.
Spain has so far recorded over 5 million COVID-19 cases and 87,931 related deaths. Its vaccination rate is 80%.
People in the 60-69 age group and some vulnerable patients are currently eligible for boosters with Pfizer or Moderna and vaccines for influenza.
(Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)