What Happens If I Test Positive for COVID While On Holiday in Spain?
January 26th, 2022
It’s a situation that is bound to fill every holidaymaker with dread in 2022. You’ve been looking forward to your two weeks abroad for months, having maybe missed out completely the previous two years.
You’ve made all your plans, paid your money, jumped through all the hoops you’ve had to jump through. You’ve got your vaccine paperwork in order. You’ve even got through the major hurdle of your pre-flight COVID tests without a hitch. You’ve boarded the plane, you’ve arrived at your destination. Your holiday is actually happening.
But then disaster strikes. More and more countries are requiring international visitors to take follow-up tests after they arrive, often around day two of their visit. In some ways, getting a positive test on this one is worse than before you fly. At least then you can just go home. If you test positive while in a foreign country, you face spending your holiday in quarantine in unfamiliar surroundings, unable to leave your room or do anything.
This summer, millions of Brits are expected to head to Spain as (pending any further variants or outbreaks) overseas tourism scales up again. Spain is by far and away the most popular destination for British holidaymakers.
By the law of averages, some of those travellers are going to test positive while in Spain. So what exactly will happen to them? It’s best to be prepared should the worst happen and you end up being one of the unlucky ones. Here’s what you need to know.
What are the current COVID rules in Spain?
First of all, let’s look at some of the general requirements for getting into Spain, including testing rules. These are subject to change, of course, especially if your trip is not planned for several months. But this is the situation as it stands.
The main headline travel rule for Spain at the moment is that UK residents are only allowed in if they are fully vaccinated. This is because the UK is classified as a high risk country by the Spanish government.
If you are not vaccinated, you’d be strongly advised to delay booking your holiday until you hear that the rules have changed. It’s unlikely you’ll get your money back if you book on the hope that the rules will change and then they don’t.
It’s also important to note that the vaccine rule applies to all children over 12. This is potentially a big stumbling block for families. The current vaccination roll out for under 18s in the UK means many have only had one jab so far. That would not be enough to be allowed into Spain. If you are planning a family holiday to Spain, you will need to think about scheduling vaccine doses for all children over 12s accordingly. The second dose must be given at least 14 days before you travel.
To prove your vaccination status, you must have an NHS COVID certificate downloaded within 30 days of arrival. All passengers - including children under 12 - are required to complete a Health Control Form within 48 hours of travel. This includes declarations of any known history of exposure to COVID.
Pre-departure and on-arrival tests are not currently mandatory for travelling to Spain. However, authorities may ask you to take a test on arrival. This could be because of a recent COVID contact in your health declaration form, or because of a recent diagnosis and recovery.
Spanish border control also now includes temperature checks and visual evaluation of symptoms. If you have a high temperature or are suspected of having COVID-like symptoms, you will have to take a test.
What if I test positive?
This is where things get slightly complicated. At the end of December 2021, the Spanish government put out an announcement saying “no traveler from abroad is subject to quarantine upon arrival in Spain”. This seems to be in reference to automatic quarantine for visitors from high risk countries. Because if you end up testing positive on arrival, you will have to go into isolation.
The grey area seems to be because different autonomous regions around Spain have different rules for how people diagnosed with the virus are handled. The general advice is that if you test positive having been put through a health assessment on arrival, you should self-isolate at your accommodation and wait for contact from the regional health authorities.
Depending where you are, you may then be able to carry out your isolation period in your booked accommodation, or you may be asked to move to an authorised ‘quarantine hotel’. The mandatory isolation period is now seven days rather than 10. But still, if you are moved to a dedicated hotel to isolate in, you will have to pay for it on top of the accommodation you have already paid for.
What can I do to guard against the risk?
Even though COVID tests are no longer mandatory for travelling to Spain, you’d be strongly advised to at least have everyone in your party take lateral flow tests in the week before you fly. If someone does have COVID, it’s better to know about it before you travel, and not risk a week in quarantine.
You should also take out travel insurance with a comprehensive level of COVID cover for holidays in Spain. In the worst case scenario of being moved to a quarantine hotel which you have to pay for, this is the only kind of financial protection available.
You can also claim for the loss of your holiday (i.e. the cost of accommodation you didn’t use, or any paid-for excursions you had to cancel), the same way you can claim for a cancellation if one of your party tests positive before you travel. Check to see if the insurance policy you are buying offers cover for both cancellations and curtailments.
Find out more here about COVID cover on travel insurance policies for Spain.