5th Sep 2020 @ 9:17 am

The inter tourist season is an opportunity that the Canaries can not afford to lose. As a result, the Canarian government is drawing up plans to test all arrivals to the islands. However, if Spain’s government does not agree to such a plan, the Canaries will ask tour operators to make a negative test result a condition of entry and will carry out free tests on all returning tourists.

Tourist Councillor Yaiza Castilla has met with the islands’ cabildos and representatives of tour operators to draw up a plan for a testing system by mid-September, which can then be presented to national government in Madrid for approval. If that approval is not given, a “Plan B” will be developed that does not require state approval.

This plan will require that tour operators demand that negative PCR test results must be presented before tourists are permitted to travel to the Canaries (the Canarian government does not have the power to demand this of source countries).  In return, the islands will perform a free test on all visitors before they return home.

 “They guarantee that they arrive without the virus and we guarantee that they leave without it” is how the system has been described by a source. 

Castilla has said she is confident that Madrid will give the green light to testing on arrival, but stated yesterday that “the imminent arrival of the Canarian high season means that we have to prepare a plan B that will give reassurance to source countries.” 

The plan B avoids the requirement for testing at airports on arrival, which has been described as “a logistical nightmare” by Spain’s health ministry; and it also rules out the need to be build temporary testing centres outside airports – a solution that was recently being considered so that the Canaries could carry out tests on arrival without state approval. 

Although Spain’s health ministry has so far been firm in its opposition to demanding negative PCR tests as a condition for travellers, the example of Greece,  Cyprus and certain Caribbean islands, which currently operate just such a system, will have been closely noted.

Also influential will have been this week’s German decision to include the Canaries in the list of risk areas, from which arrivals must provide proof of a negative PCR test to avoid quarantine. Up to now, Germany has been carrying out these tests itself.

Consequently, the Canarian plan will also have to be approved by German authorities before it can be viable. Meanwhile, the UK government – which requires the observance of 14 days quarantine regardless of PCR test results – would also have to change its rules.

Both Canarian plans are intended to avoid the closing of tourist markets once they have reopened again. However, the islands must first face the task of bringing down their rate of new infections before the winter season begins in earnest.