In devastating news for the islands, The UK govenrnment has announced the closure of the Canary Islands “travel corridor”. Anyone arriving in the UK from the Canaries from 4 am on Saturday 12th December will have to self-isolate for 14 days, or pay for a PCR test after 5 days under the new “test and release” scheme.
UK Transport Minister Grant Shapps tweeted “Data indicates weekly cases and positive tests are increasing in the CANARY ISLANDS and so we are REMOVING them from the Travel Corridor list to reduce the risk of importing COVID-19. From 4am Sat 12 Dec, if you arrive from these islands you WILL need to self-isolate.”
The 7-day infection rate on the Canaries recently reached 52.15 cases per 100,000 people, and anything above 50 crosses the UK government’s red line. The percentage of positive tests is also 7.9%, well above the 5% recommended by the WHO and the ECDC.
However, the “risk” that Shapps mentioned remains minimal, given that only Tenerife, which currently has a 7-day rate of 98, is above the 50 level. Lanzarote’s 7-day rate is currently 23, and all five of the other islands have 7-day rates under 20. (The UK’s rate, incidentally, is around 160. )
The vast majority of new cases in Tenerife have also occurred in the cities of Santa Cruz and La Laguna, far from the tourist centres. A recent outbreak in a nursing home has registered 195 cases.
Unlike Lanzarote and Gran Canaria, which both saw sharp spikes at the start of September, which later declined to their current steady levels; Tenerife has experienced a steady but inexorable increase in infections. Yesterday, the Canarian Government extended special curfew measures to try and flatten the curve on the island, but these do not seem to have been successful yet.
The borderline nature of the UK’s decision is also highlighted by the fact that the Canaries remain yellow on the ECDC’s weekly combined indicator map, which was also updated yesterday. This means that other EU member states, which use the map as a guideline, may not yet follow the UK in reintroducing quarantine requirements.
However, until the Canaries get back on course in time for one of the UK’s Thursday travel corridor reviews, British visitors face the prospect of paying for a PCR test to arrive; followed by 14 days quarantine, or five days quarantine and another PCR test, on their return. It’s a tough pill for many to swallow.