The HuaXin Travel agency in Palma. | Miquel À. Cañellas

Following relaxation of foreign travel regulations by the Chinese government, Spain's ministry of health will be establishing controls at the two airports which receive most Chinese passengers - Madrid-Barajas and Barcelona-El Prat. These controls will be operational from January 8 and similar arrangements are expected at other airports, including Palma, Mahon and Ibiza.

The foreign health service and the airports authority Aena are currently discussing measures that will be adopted. While precise detail is as yet limited, it is understood that controls will not be like those previously applied; artificial intelligence will be used to implement permanent controls.

A view of Spanish health authorities is that China's approach of regular mass confinement and isolation of the population has been a "resounding failure" when the most valid option has been generalised vaccination - "nothing else".

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Whatever the approach may have been, now that there is the relaxation of travel restrictions, Spain, like other countries, is wanting real-time data that gives a far clearer picture of the situation with Covid in China than there is at present. In the absence of reliable data, the World Health Organization says that it is "understandable" that countries are imposing measures.

Management at Palma Son Sant Joan Airport is waiting on decisions to be taken by Madrid next week but is already preparing the logistics for controls. There will be maximum health security for so-called 'hot flights' from the mainland or with stopovers at European airports and which are carrying Chinese passengers.

The Chinese association in the Balearics says that while the Chinese adult resident population on the islands is officially around 8,000 (up to 10,000 to include children), it believes that the real figure is significantly higher.

Chinese tourist numbers in the Balearics were extremely low prior to the pandemic. For the HuaXin Travel agency in Palma, the important thing now is that there is clarity in respect of measures that will be applied. "The climate of uncertainty is not positive for anyone."