Palma Son Sant Joan Airport control

Antigen tests at the airport for passengers without negative PCR result.

28-11-2020Archive

Spaniards living abroad who intend returning to Spain for the festive period will not be exempt from the obligation to present a negative PCR test. Manuel Muñoz, secretary of state for Spain Global, says that discrimination in testing "doesn't make epidemiological sense".

The obligation applies to travel from countries considered to be at risk, which means a 14-day incidence of 150 or more cases per 100,000. Muñoz explains that the determining factor is the risk in the country of origin. Control measures have to be harmonised, and the PCR requirement, he adds, has been established by the health ministry based on scientific criteria.

On antigen tests, Muñoz observes that if these were to be improved so that the level of sensitivity is raised, it would be "very likely" that they would be requested instead of PCRs. "At the moment, the evidence does not recommend doing so." There are meetings each week at EU level at which the capacity of tests and their mutual recognition are assessed. "The general consensus is that antigen tests do not have sufficient sensitivity to replace PCRs."

Antigen tests, Muñoz continues, give "more false negatives" with asymptomatic people. These people have lower viral load and they are "precisely the cases that were not emerging" from ordinary visual and temperature controls prior to November 23 (which was when the PCR requirement came into effect).

The Marea Granate Spanish group of emigrants believes that travelling to Spain this Christmas will be a "luxury" for those who can afford a PCR test. The obligation, in this group's opinion, "is a disguised border control that will financially segregate those who can enter the country". There are governments, such as the Danish, which are allowing their residents to enter without presenting proof.

Muñoz insists that the government is trying to "facilitate the situation as much as possible" for Spaniards wishing to return. If there are "additional measures" which can be adopted, they will be. But whatever the measures, "they cannot reduce the protection against the risk of contagion, especially now that there are higher incidence rates in other countries". He defends the current system as it is the "least harmful and least burdensome" for travellers, while other countries are imposing quarantines or a mix of test and self-isolation. In this regard, he mentions the example of the UK.

For some Spanish travellers, however, they would prefer having the "flexibility" of being able to opt for quarantine if something goes wrong and the result of the PCR test doesn't arrive on time, rather than risking a fine of up to 6,000 euros.

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