17th Dec 2020 @ 10:09 am

Cheap, rapid antigen tests will not be valid for entry to the Canary islands after the Spanish Council of State questioned last week’s Canarian decree permitting overseas tourists to use  negative results of antigen tests. The next step for the Canarian Government is an almost-certain overruling in Spain’s Constitutional Court.

The decision is hardly a surprise. The Canarian attempt to use special state of alarm powers to close its own borders and then reopen them to travellers who fulfilled their own requirements, including having a negative antigen test result, was always a risky legal gambit.

However, the decree was followed up by claims on sites controlled by the Canarian Government that antigen tests would be accepted. This caused widespread confusion and even led to the British Foreign Office briefly claiming that antigen tests “may” be accepted. However, Spain consistently  failed to acknowledge the Canarian decree, and the airport authority AENA and Spain’s tourist board Turespaña stuck firmly to the PCR-test only Spanish law.

And that’s not surprising. The Spanish government has made it quite clear that it would wait for an EU agreement on antigen tests before authorising them and, although it is widely desired,  that agreement has not been reached yet.

Meanwhile, intense pressure from the tourism sector on and off the Canaries appears to have forced the Canarian Government into a rash and irresponsible move. In its vain attempt to pressure Madrid into unilaterally approving antigen tests, the regional authority has caused unnecessary confusion for thousands of potential visitors.

Two things have, however, been resolved by the issue. First, the Canarian government can now tell the hotel and tourism associations that they did all they could  and let Madrid take the blame.

Second, we can be sure of the rules as they now stand (until that EU agreement is reached, at least):  

  • If you’re over six years old and  travelling from a high-risk country, you’ll need a negative result from  PCR test (or the variant TMA) carried out in the 72 hours before arrival.
  • If you’re travelling from Ireland or another medium- or low- risk country, you’ll need no test result to enter Spain.
  • If you’re staying in registered Canarian tourist accommodation, you will need a PCR or antigen test result.
  • If you’re over six and travelling to the Canaries from mainland Spain or the Balearics, you’ll need results of a PCR test or an antigen test, under the Canarian law of 16th December.

Like everyone else, we’d like to see antigen tests approved as soon as possible, if only to provide choice and competition in the testing market, and we share the frustration and disappointment of the tourist sector and Canarian Government. But  we also have a duty to inform readers of the facts as they are, not as we’d like them to be.