UK Transport Secretary removes requirement for British visitors to Canaries to quarantine on return home

Updated 22 October: British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced that the advice not to travel to the Canaries will be changed from 4am this Sunday 25 October. Following an assessment of the latest data, the islands have been added to the Travel Corridors list, and visitors will not only be able to get insurance because they won’t be coming against UK Government advice, they also will no longer have to quarantine on arrival back in the UK.

Updated 21 August: It’s a month since the UK Government took the Canaries out of its travel corridors list and included the islands in its general exclusion of Spain as a whole. Many thought it would be a simple and rapid matter of getting the UK to change its mind, many thought it would take just days. Here we are a month later and nothing has changed, indeed Grant Shapps only this morning said that the Government had absolutely no intention of implementing a more regionalized approach to quarantine.

Shapps was responding to calls for the Government to ease its restrictions so that anyone travelling from a low-affected area of a country otherwise badly hit by covid19 would not be affected. Shapps said, however, that such regionalization is too difficult because the virus is very unpredictable and can just take off elsewhere where the UK doesn’t have control. The Transport Secretary said that he believed everyone knew that that there are risks involved in travelling anywhere this year.

Much opprobium was heaped on the heads of those who thought that optimism and positive thought was not going to be enough to change what clearly looked like a set British policy. Sadly, realism trumped ‘belief’, and Shapps has now confirmed that Spain, all parts of the country, is not likely to be included in the government’s travel corridor list again in the near future.  

Updated 28 July: Well, the UK Government was asked to be clear and consistent, and its response did at least comply with that. Sadly, however, instead of relieving Canarian visitors from the requirement to quarantine on return to the UK because we were deemed a safe destination – which we are – the reaction has been instead to include the Canaries in the advice not to visit unless essential. At least now those returning from anywhere in Spain have consistency, however unmerited: quarantine for all.

The UK’s move has been met with disbelief and fury given the low incidence of covid cases in the Canaries. Tenerife President Pedro Martín has said that he hopes the British Government will reconsider, but the noises from London don’t suggest that this is likely, at least not in the immediate future. As I hinted in Clio’s and my CanaryCast on Monday, the optimistic mood among Canarian negotiators, fully justifiable and logical, was not matched by noises from London which suggested to me that the UK was not going to budge, and if there was any move, it could actually be in the opposite direction to that desired by Spain and, especially, the Canaries. And so it transpired.

President Torres himself says that he views the move as completely illogical, and stresses that the Canarian authorities are continuing to try everything diplomatically possible to get an intransigent UK to reconsider making an exception for these islands, both in terms of official advice that we are a safe destination and, as a natural corollary, that quarantine is not required for those returning home from this archipelago.

Some, however, are seeing the UK’s move not so much as science-based or medically necessary, but politically-grounded, whether to distract from the UK’s own record on covid and the Government’s response, or from the floundering Brexit negotiations and the need to show the UK’s clout to the EU. Political or not, grounded is certainly the right word at present with TUI and other airlines cancelling flights leaving holidaymakers in the lurch, and the Canarian tourism industry, a sector that was already on its knees and now feeling that it’s been slapped in the face and kicked while down, in despair.

Updated 2pm, 26/7: TUI has confirmed that flights for the Canaries will resume tomorrow. Whatever happens on other routes, Canarian cancellations were only for today, and will operate normally from tomorrow.

Updated 26 July: Canarian President Ángel Torres has welcomed the fact that the Canaries have not been included in the UK’s travel advice not to visit Spain unless the visit is essential. The measure only applies to the Spanish mainland, and so not the Canaries or the Balearic Islands. Torres said that the Canarian Government was working with the UK on a secure air corridor. Separately, the UK Government has imposed a fortnight’s quarantine on everyone returning from all of Spain, including the islands.

Original post 25 July: The British Government has announced that holidaymakers returning from Spain will have to quarantine for a fortnight when they get home, to all parts of the UK. What is now being called a second wave of covid19 in Spain has resulted in Spain being removed from the UK’s safe country list. Those with travel insurance are advised to check whether their policies are still valid: the FCO is now advising against all but essential travel to Spain, and this does not include the Canaries but insurance policies might not provide cover for holidays to any part of Spain. The quarantine requirement, however, applies to travellers returning from any part of Spain, including the Canaries.

edit: major disbelief, probably grounded in wishing it not to be true, has called this into question. It is, however, true. Please see HERE where it is now confirmed. The fact is that some journalists including myself had this confirmed before it was formally announced otherwise I would not have posted it. From the UK Government:

FCO is advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain – this does not cover the Canary Islands or the Balearic Islands because travel advice is based on the risk to the individual traveller and COVID-19 infection rates are lower there than mainland Spain.

People will still need to self-isolate when returning from anywhere in Spain as well as the Canary and Balearic Islands because self-isolation arrangements are put in place on the basis of risk to the UK as a whole.

23 Comments

  1. Hello Janet,
    Can you please clarify a point regarding the different interpretations I am reading about UK visitors to Spain now on returning to the UK have to isolate for two weeks. As the Canary Islands seem to have a good record on the stability of their figures are they also included or not in this latest new ruling as those returning from Spain as here in the UK, our government and local government are now working on the post code approach regarding reintroducing lockdown rules. Thank you.

  2. Author

    I’ve moved your question to a post on this very subject which you might not have seen. Yes people returning from all parts of Spain including the Canaries have to quarantine on arrival back in the UK. It is absolutely crystal clear in the quote above from the UK Government. I simply do not know how to make it clearer.

  3. I would like to say that I’m amazed at the ‘decisive action’ of Buffoon Boris (or his puppeteer – Dominic Cummings, he of the 60 mile drive to test his eyesight!) but I can’t – I’m not a liar. For weeks no action now this shambolic act. Sorry to every business in the islands involved in tourism BUT think of the Battle of Santa Cruz in whatever year, had Nelson won that you would have been given independence years ago! Not that that helps the bars, restaurants etc. who have to struggle with another spell of very few tourists. I doubt if Boris or ‘his mate’ even knows where the Canaries are, all they hear is Spain, do they realise we’re best part of 1000 kms from Spain I wonder, and that Barcelona is much closer to UK than us down here? I doubt it.

  4. I have to also say that many people who commented on this site (mostly ex uk pats and obviously not business owners ) seem to be very anti British by saying that they did not want visitors bringing new cases to the island so now they have got their wish as most package holidays and flights have been cancelled and UK tourists are flying to other destinations.

  5. Since there is free travel between mainland Spain and its islands people could have avoided quarantine returning from Aragon by simply going via the Balearics or the Canaries. So that loophole is closed.

    Also on the day the decision was made the 7 day average graph of cases in the Canaries looked exactly the same shape as the mainland, mainly due the pateras. It has flattened off a bit since but they couldn’t have happened at a worse time and probably should have been reported separately.

    The initial tidal wave of infections in the UK was due to thousands of infected tourists returning from Spain and Italy and the government got criticism for letting them in without quarantine, so they can’t win.

    In the UK there are plenty of scared people glad that tourists can’t import the infection, who have no intention of foreign travel themselves and resent younger people who want to.

    I did think that as soon as tourists arrived in Spain they would bring it with them and Spain would close its borders again, didn’t guess it would be the other way around.

    Any border will have a different infection rate each side and people on the low side don’t want to let people from the high side in. Scotland want to stop the English, etc.

    I have no idea how this is going to end. I fear society will fracture along age / health lines.

  6. As a Tenerife visitor for 30 years I am devastated at whats happening to the tourist industry there. I am, however, quite amazed at the hostility given to the decision to quarantine visitors once back home. Boris Johnson’s job is to look after British Citizens, the abuse he is receiving for doing that is ridiculous. No, you may not like the decision but it is the responsibility of the Spanish government to keep Spain safe. I can only assume the Canaries & Balearics are included in quarantine rule because Spain is still allowing domestic flights into theses areas, therefore carrying the risk of transmission also. Also to suggest his motive could be for other reasons is odd, he has enough on his plate without playing games.

  7. Marie – Boris hasn’t the ability to look after anyone or anything, he has to ask Dominic for permission to do anything. The UK is in a such a mess, even worse than the days of Dictator Thatcher. Never thought I would see it in such deep, deep do-do ever again. I’m glad I’m out of it now.

  8. I don’t think the UK is any more of a mess than any other Country in the World at the moment. Using words such as ‘dictator’ are not helpful – regardless of political persuasion.
    Marie is Absolutely correct in her analysis. Every Government in every Country is being criticised by their media and citizens and every positive seems to be turned into a negative. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t!

  9. I am personally tired of reading Theresa’ politically motivated rants. Her contributions are spoiling an otherwise wonderful source of information about Tenerife.

  10. Author

    I’ll close this to comments for a while … at least until there’s some new confirmed information. For the moment, some want that to change quickly, some don’t want it to change at all, some think Spain should have put the UK on its own don’t travel list, and others think Spain opened its own borders too quickly … whatever the viewpoint, the reality is that Spain is on the UK’s don’t travel list, and anyone going to the UK from Spain must quarantine for a fortnight.

  11. Can you see a change in government policy with people returning from Tenerife, we intend to travel 27/9 with jet2 it . Is jet2 policy not to fly to any country That would mean passengers having to self isolate on return to the uk. ? When do you think jet2 will notify passengers of cancellations to Tenerife

  12. Author

    Assuming you mean the UK Government, I think it’s best to wait for the PM’s statements tomorrow following the briefings today by CMO Whitty and CSA Vallance. That might clarify policy, but in terms of quarantine, I have seen no indications that they are considering a change. As to Jet2, you will need to enquire with the airline direct, I’m afraid.

  13. The last update on Jet2.com was on 11/9/20. They stated that, subject to change, they expect to fly to the Canary Islands from 27/9/20. Each 2 weeks recently they have updated their Website with a new ‘expected’ date for flights to the Canary Islands. As the figures out here have not improved in recent weeks, I fully expect to see them update their website later this week to say they expect to start flying to the Canary Islands from October, again subject to change. If this happens, you will probably find out just a few days before you are due to travel.

  14. UK policy will be dictated by the needs of securing the safest environment for UK citizens living and working in the UK. I very much doubt UK Ministers will make any exceptions in order to support tourism outside of the UK no mater how much the likes of Spain may plead with them.

  15. Jet2 now say on their website that they expect to fly to the Canary Islands from 18th October 2020

  16. No change in UK government advice on travel to Canaries/Tenerife yesterday
    At a loss to understand why the UK government is ignoring data provided from Tenerife government about low cases of Covid here when they treated Greek islands as separate cases 2 weeks ago!- madness!
    We have been here for 2 weeks and another to go and we feel safer here than in the UK
    Just so sad to see deserted hotels and areas around with so many friends suffering financially

  17. Author

    As I have said repeatedly, there is NO indication of change in the UK with regard to travel advice to the Canaries. I know people like to be “positive” and hate “negativity” (for which, read “reality”) but the fact is that trying to talk this up is achieving nothing but frustration and anger, when the situation is clear and we simply have to wait for further information or confirmation of changes rather than speculating all the time!

  18. Tenerife figures are not low compared to the UK travel threshold or the UK average. It is measured in cases per 7 days per 100,000. People forget to multiply daily figures by seven when comparing.

    441 cases in Tenerife in the last 7 days with a population around 1M, so about 44.

  19. Agree Janet. Speculation achieves nothing in these extraordinary times. However, given how close we are to the winter season, and the seemingly unstoppable escalating covid rates seen across Europe, I doubt if we shall see any significant uptake in visitor numbers this year.

  20. The Finns seem to have the solution. They have trained dogs to be able smell covid on people at airports. They can detect it 5 days before symptoms and the test only takes minutes to give a result. Much more sensitive than PCR.

    25 years ago I used to live nextdoor to somebody who worked on electronic noses. I wonder if that have come on enough to compete with dogs yet.

  21. One day Spain are looking at a total lockdown and the next day the uk have removed the canaries from the quarantine list on Sunday. 24 hours is long time with the current situation that flip flops every day just like the current Brexit situation. It’s anybody’s guess at the moment.

  22. Nigel, what’s really happened is that the UK has finally realised that ,although the islands are Spanish, we are actually hundreds of kilometres away from Spain and so entitled to be looked at separately. About time, too. Let’s hope that Pres. Sanchez accepts the case made by the Canaries for us to be considered a special case and not locked down if the rest of the mainland is.

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