Spain Won’t Require PCR Tests For UK Arrivals From Next Week

Spain will no longer require negative RT-PCR tests from UK travelers starting from May 20th. The move would boost travel from the UK as the country officially lifts its ban on non-essential travel from May 17th. Spain is currently not on the UK’s green list, which means returning travelers will have to self-quarantine at home.

British Airways, Sean Doyle, Cost Cutting
As cases fall in the UK, Spain is hoping to attract British travelers this summer. Photo: Getty Images

Balancing act

According to Reuters, Spain will drop the negative PCR test requirement for travelers from the UK starting May 20th. This decision has been taken to attract more British tourists to the nation after a difficult winter and spring season for tourism. Removing testing will mean one less roadblock to international travel for Britons, although the self-quarantine remains.

In a delicate balancing act between stimulating the economy and keeping cases low, Spain opted to drop testing after seeing the UK’s progress with containing COVID-19. Spanish Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said,

“They (Britons) could come from May 20 onwards without a PCR if the incidence rates are below the range currently under review, which is around 50.”

why uniform testing is key to transatlantic travel
Pre-flight testing will not be a requirement for the UK to Spain travel. Photo: Getty Images

UK’s rate of cases per 100,000 has been below 50 since the last days of March and currently stands at 21.3. This means, barring a substantial spike in cases, Britons should be able to Spain worry-free. However, coming back is not as simple.

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As mentioned earlier, Spain did not make the cut as of one of the UK’s ‘green list’ countries (only 12 globally did). This leaves the country on the ‘amber’ list, meaning returning travelers must take two RT-PCR tests and self-quarantine for 10 days. This can be cut down to five days if passengers opt in to the “Test To Release” program at an additional charge.

While airlines are pushing for cheaper RT-PCR tests, current two-test packages cost over £150 per traveler. Photo: Getty Images

However, the costs of self-isolating for 5-10 days and taking at least two RT-PCR tests after arrival can be prohibitive to many travelers. Currently, the cheapest testing package costs £151 for two tests, along with much more for ‘Test to Release’. This means a family of four would spend upwards of £600 in testing alone (excluding the pre-departure test as well).

These extremely high costs have airlines pushing for cheaper testing packages, something the government is considering. Airlines have negotiated lower test costs for their own passengers, although they still remain pricey.

Small green list

This week’s announcement for green list countries has left most disappointed. Out of the 12 nations on the list, only four are accepting travelers from the UK. This means only 4.5% of 2019 travel capacity is actually accessible to Britons. Airlines have greatly criticized the list, calling it overly cautious and a “missed opportunity“.

The best hope for UK travelers in Portugal, which will be open to travelers and has made it to the quarantine-free green list. Expect to see bookings and demand to the national surge in the coming days as passengers take to the skies again.

What do you think about Spain’s decision to drop pre-travel testing from UK travelers? Should more countries follow their lead? Let us know in the comments!