Spain pins hopes on pre-departure tests in Canaries

Ben Ireland

Spain’s tourism secretary hopes a pilot scheme for pre-departure testing for travel between the UK and the Canary Islands could begin this month, paving the way for a mutually-recognised scheme between the UK and Spain. Fernando Valdés said talks were

under way and believes the current requirement for PCR tests to prove tourists are Covid-free “has to change” to reduce barriers to travel ahead of a vaccine rollout. PCR results can take two days

and are more expensive than antigen tests, which give results in a matter of minutes. The reliability of antigen tests is not as high as that of PCRs, but they have been recommended by the EC for the diagnosis of Covid-19. Valdés was speaking before

leaders from 95 countries committed to the adoption of pre-departure international protocols for Covid-19 tests, and acceptance of results on arrival, in the ‘La Palma Declaration’ on Monday. The conference was hosted by Spanish governments and the World Travel & Tourism Council. UK tourism minister Nigel Huddleston spoke.

Valdés told Travel Weekly: “We

have to move forward to put in place measures that are more flexible, more cheap and more accessible.” He wants to move away from

quarantine altogether with pre- departure tests, but believes the next step is to trial the regimes in the Canary Islands, which has a UK travel corridor, from December 15 to February 15. Similar talks are under way with Germany. “A pilot would give confidence

to tourists, operators and agents,” he said, predicting a move towards some form of rapid diagnostic testing “within weeks, not months”. The Canaries decreed a law

to allow negative antigen tests to be accepted as Covid-free proof this week. It could be in place by December 15, exempting the archipelago from a Spain-wide law requiring negative PCR results. The UK is yet to confirm which

tests will be accepted when the ‘test to release’ scheme begins on December 15. Airports including Gatwick, Edinburgh and Newcastle have started offering PCR tests on

site. Prices range from £60 to £99. i Read the Valdés interview in full at

Heathrow is involved in a study of testing trials being conducted by British Airways, American Airlines, United and Virgin Atlantic

Industry awaits cr two weeks before

Ian Taylor

The industry is awaiting key information on the ‘test to release’ scheme to reduce quarantine less than a fortnight before it starts. Arrivals to England from

non-corridor destinations will be able to pay for a Covid test after five days’ self-isolation from December 15 and cut the time required to quarantine if negative. But an airline source said: “It’s

already December and we’re not there on the detail. We need to know who the test providers are. “We haven’t got the key piece


Fernando Valdés

4 3 DECEMBER 2020

Canaria airport

of information. We want the list of providers.” Passengers will opt into the

scheme by booking and paying for a test before they arrive. They can use a designated test site or take a test at


home with a kit supplied, but NHS tests won’t be permitted. Distributing tests by mail may delay the process. The source said: “The test

providers will have to manage [the process]. You can’t guarantee the post will be 24 hours. They might use couriers. If Amazon can do it, the testing providers can. But all we can say to providers [at present] is ‘get on the list’.” An aviation source agreed:

“We have very little detail. We need details of the scheme and how

it works in practice, but we’re not going to know until it’s operational.” A second airline source told

Travel Weekly: “The list of providers won’t be out till close in [to December 15]. The providers have to apply and be designated. We’re moving at government speed.” The government has not specified

the type of test. But an accompanying regulatory change specifies tests must

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