Hugh Elliott and Francina Armengol in Palma on Thursday. | Govern de les Illes Balears

The British Ambassador, Hugh Elliott, said in Palma on Thursday that the Balearics request to be treated separately from the mainland when the UK government establishes its "green traffic light" was "well founded". There are common interests in such a reopening to tourism travel, he stated, adding that he "couldn't say more" about whether there will be differential treatment for the islands.

Following a meeting with President Armengol, the ambassador said that various factors place the Balearics in a good position for when the UK allows travel from May 17. He highlighted the virus sequencing capacity that has been developed in Mallorca, as the evolution of the virus and new strains and variants will be a key element to study in the future.

Elliott also drew attention to the "enormous effort" that has been applied in containing the pandemic - limitations and restrictions which have been an "investment" for tourism to return safely.

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The Balearic tourism minister, Iago Negueruela, also speaking at the post-meeting press conference, referred to virus sequencing which has multiplied by five the national average positive rates. The minister said that the islands have reached an epidemiological situation that should allow opening to UK tourists, also mentioning the controls at ports and airports and facilities such as the so-called bridge hotels for any visitors who test positive. "We know that the British want to come back, and we want the British to come back."

The ambassador pointed to the "good prospects" offered by the vaccination programmes in Spain and in the UK, but he insisted on the need for a "cautious" reopening. "We have all the information to evaluate the (green list) request, but what I can anticipate is that the opening of travel from May 17 will be cautious and gradual. The last thing we want to do is open and then have to close again, which would be the worst for everyone. We have to wait a little longer."

Elliott was asked about the need for UK tourists to have PCR tests and the possible effect this will have on the number of tourists. He acknowledged that "it is going to be a bit more expensive" to travel, noting that the UK, like other countries, is studying the introduction of a vaccination certificate. The ambassador didn't wish to comment on calls being made for the tourism sector to be given vaccination priority, other than to note that this is a decision for the government and scientists.