EU approves traffic light air corridor system BUT British travellers will not find it helps them travel to Spain or return to the UK without quarantine

Updated 14 October: The EU has approved the new system to give travellers within Europe an overview of how the covid19 outbreak is evolving in different parts of the bloc, with a colour-coded traffic light system for risk. Those areas with fewer than 25 infections per 100,000 residents and a <4% test positivity will be coded green, for low risk; areas with a rate of 50/100,000 and a >4% positivity rate will be amber; and areas with over 50/100,000 and a >4% positivity rate, or where the incidence is of 150/100,000 in the previous fortnight, will be coded red for danger. The information will be recorded with weekly updates by the ECDC on its website HERE where travel requirements for the EU27 are already detailed. There is also a link on it to download the weekly update.

Please note that the new system replaces one in which each EU country set its own risk status, so this establishes a coordinated approach to information provision. Unfortunately, it is also simply a recommendation rather than a legal basis for regulation. EU27 countries aren’t obliged to take part in it, or even enforce the new system. They will, in other words, be able to introduce and maintain quarantine as individual countries … which is exactly what the UK is doing itself.

So, this new system does not set up a travel corridor between the UK and Spain. It could not because it is not intended for that purpose, and even where it is intended to apply, it cannot override an individual country’s freedom to choose to impose quarantine on entry. In this respect, the UK’s quarantine on those returning from Spain remains in place.

This story has gained arms and legs, and wound people up, and made them think the UK was imminently going to remove quarantine. It made some of them think, clearly, that the UK would have to remove quarantine. Neither is true. Neither ever was.

Updated 13 October: EU countries are scheduled to approve the traffic light system for travel today. This is a separate scheme from the purely Spanish one for tourist corridors to the Canary and Balearic islands. Nothing is yet in place with either one but the Spanish system needs to be agreed individually with the UK, of course. That agreement from the British side does not at present appear to be forthcoming but nonetheless Spain is trying to find some means of getting the UK to lift the quarantine requirement on those returning to Britain from here. 

By contrast, the EU system is a means of avoiding borders being closed unilaterally by countries throughout the bloc with the rise of both cases and fears of another closure of the Schengen Area as happened back in March. The EU system would see a map published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control that would be updated on a weekly basis and give EU areas, not individual countries, a status showing their covid data.

There are reasons why the scheme, even if approved today as expected, will not be welcomed in the UK. Some of them are political – the UK wants to be seen as having taken back control and not be subject to EU protocols – but others are genuine concerns about, for example, the harmonization of test and trace systems throughout the EU with individual countries doing different things because there’s no European Health Department. Other concerns relate to the potential disruption of local lockdowns, and so London’s concerns relate to the same problems, really, that the UK is already grappling with within the UK itself.

We will just have to wait to hear what word comes out of Number 10 in all these respects but for the moment, the only requirements for travellers into Spain are the completion of the passenger location form (HERE) and, for those returning to the UK from Spain, a fortnight’s quarantine. For the rules to follow when here, please see the top section in bold of THIS post.

Original post 12 October: From my mailbag, clearly I need to say that despite much reporting of whatever the EU and Spain have agreed, there is no travel corridor system in place for any visitors yet, let alone from the UK. There might be, and certainly this is a system proposed and effectively agreed throughout the EU and within Spain itself. Unfortunately, as yet, nothing is in place even among the EU27 let alone with the UK which is no longer in the EU and where cases are anyway soaring and which has introduced a new traffic light system of its own today for local lockdowns.

I know several media outlets including the Sun and the Independent in the UK have gone with this as though this is already in place. It is not, and even when it is, the UK will need to sign up to it as a non-EU country. This is all still to be confirmed and agreed within the EU possibly over this or next week, but there is an additional system agreed within Spain itself for tourist corridors to the islands. The system will allow negotiations with countries like the UK, but again, nothing with the UK is yet in place.


  1. Hi. I have a Holiday booked on 6th November for one week staying at the Hovima Costa Adeje.
    How likely do you think an air corridor from Manchester Airport will be in place?
    Thanks and Best Wishes.

    1. Author

      I have no idea, I’m afraid. It will depend on the UK Government lifting its advice against travelling here and there seems no indication of that at present.

      1. Author

        I’m closing this to comments for a while. The UK Government’s advice is not to come to Spain. Insurance is unlikely to provide full cover whatever is promised, but even so the FCDO says that those who insist on travelling should have it as well as an EHIC. And this is all as the situation throughout Europe is worsening considerably and restrictions are increasingly imposed day by day.

  2. The announcement of possibole air corridors to the Spanish islands is a great step forward. People need to be able to decide what is best for themselves and visiting Tenerife is a positive benefit for many retired folk – as well as lots of families. There seems to be too many areas of the UK that have mayors who only look at their own political interest and I cannot see anything positive for the wider community in what they say or do. Lets support the government, the airlines, our foreign friends and our well-being by getting the Canaries open for all who want to go this winter.

  3. Hi Janet. I live in Jersey C.I. and come to Tenerife for the winter months Dec-April we in Jersey are min risk but I have to travel to UK (Gatwick ) to get to Tenerife but only in transit. If I have to Isolate on my return, no problem,I own my own apt in Tenerife can you see any problems for me this year. Any advice welcome Regards Mr K HILL

    1. Author

      As things stand today, you will need to fill in a form on or before arrival in Tenerife. I do not know how the UK rules on quarantine apply in the Isle of Man and Channel Islands, so you’ll need to check that on official CI sites. The rules to follow when here are listed at the top of the New Normal post HERE, where you’ll also find a link to the passenger location form.

      I’m not sure what problems you might have in mind … clearly some will be worried about contagion, others about what’s open or closed … . No-one wants to know my personal view on travelling anywhere in the middle of a pandemic, I think …

      Do bear in mind, though, that if you’re considering coming until April you will exceed the 90 days you’re allowed under the Schengen Area rules for non-resident non-EU nationals. Please see HERE for information on Swallows – scroll down to the section with that heading.

  4. Dear Janet I follow you daily ,no I am not a stalker
    We are suppose to have a half-term hol in Tenerife
    I have little fear of catching covidv19 there but the return UK quarantine is the game changer. No work no wages and no education for my kids for a fortnight .
    No thanks

  5. Having recently seen first hand the damage to the tourism industry since March I hope the EU initiative will be taken on board by member countries so that visitors can start returning to the island
    The attitude of the UK government in requiring quarantine on return seems unlikely to change in the near future and one can only hope other countries will not adopt a similar stance
    Keep the relevant updates coming please Janet as you are our only accurate source of the true situation since recent UK media reports give “it’s happened” information rather than “it could and it’s relevant “

  6. Absolutely correct Janet and thank you once again, for making it TOTALLY CLEAR on the matter.
    Let me say one more thing on it, our well known insurance provider also makes it clear if we have booked since the 13th March 2020 and we go against the FCO travel advice, our insurance cover will again, be completely invalidated. Also, if we go against their travel advice on a date when it is STILL IN PLACE and then it’s lifted later whilst we are away, again, our complete cover is consequently invalidated, so my advice is, when in doubt, check it out BEFORE you travel.
    Fortunately, we tend to book a year in advance as retired people and yes, we still live in hope for December visit to Tenerife but with the figures going up here daily, we won’t hold our breath.

  7. Quite agree Mary. Theresa seems to be a very angry and opinionated person who wants to live on her own island without anybody else around her and as you quite rightly say she is obviously an immigrant her herself and the poor souls arriving on boats here are quite obviously in a desperate situation or they would not be risking the journey. It’s very easy to judge when you are in a privileged position as a lot of us swallows are but personally I find the situation quite sad that any person has to embark on what could be a life threatening journey.

    1. Author

      ok, I think opinions have been voiced, but now please may we keep this post for comments on the EU traffic light system ? 🙂

  8. Theresa, I do wish you would think a little before posting on here. Your last post in this thread (apart from being confusing and it’s relevance hard to understand) showed some racial undertones against migrants. You can have no idea of their individual circumstances as to whether or not they should be “allowed in” as you put it, You are forgetting that you yourself, and me are immigrants here ourselves!
    In any case, in the context of this tread, people arriving here after a dangerous and desperate trip across the Atlantic are hardly on a par with holidaymakers surely? Very unpleasant reading-.
    Please. I do not want this to turn into a debate about the refugees etc. I just wnted to express my disquiet. Thankyou.

  9. wrt ~Florence’s comment about invalidated insurance, haven’t the Canary Island government said they would pay any COVID costs if a tourist falls ill in the territory? Or am I being naive?

    1. Author

      No they have not said that they’ll cover any covid costs … the cover is for situations in extremis, and there are plenty of caveats. Have a look HERE.

      I’ll also say while I’m posting – not in relation to this comment but others that haven’t appeared – that I’m not approving comments recommending insurance companies that will cover for covid and/or anything else despite people flying here against UK Government advice. It is now clearly established that such cover does not actually exist, at least not in all cases, and certainly does not exist for covid-related issues themselves.

      I won’t have such policies and companies promoted on this site when I’m actively engaged in three cases trying to take action to get cover that has been refused becausd the claimants came here “against GovUK advice” … even when the policies were taken out expressly because of a promise to cover despite travel “against GovUK advice”. Believe what you like, naturally, but don’t try to persuade people cover will be forthcoming when I know for an absolute fact that it is not, at least not in all cases.

  10. I completely agree with your comments Janet regarding our government’s attitude towards the lifting of the quarantine for people returning from Spain but in our case, December will be our 4th attempt this year to visit Tenerife again. Our problem is NOT with Tenerife but with our own FCO travel advice which if you go against, will invalidate your travel insurance completely for EVERYTHING that you are covered for. If you want to take that chance then so be it but sadly, NOT for us at this stage in our lives.
    Still. here’s hoping for December with fingers crossed.

  11. Agree Janet. As for other well aired comments ……. no comment.

  12. Sorry Brits, ever get the feeling they (the powers that be) don’t want you back in your country (which ever one of the four it may be) – possibly they prefer all these migrants (boat people – like the ones we get here) who seem to get in no matter what?

  13. I think the best solution would be the sniffer dogs at the airports. Shouldn’t cost much. More accurate than PCR and results in minutes. Why is that not the proposal?

    Should have then at hospitals as well to keep infection out.

    1. Author

      As I say, whatever they propose is less the issue than the UK Government’s attitude, which presently seems set against lifting quarantine on people returning from Spain whatever is offered.

  14. Seen some reports that AENA has said no to any covid testing at airports. If true then that’s the final death kneel.

    1. Author

      It’s all negotiating … they don’t want to pay for it. This is all about finding something that will allow foreign Governments (esp UK) to allow travel here without problem, especially without quarantine on return to UK, but obviously trying to ensure too that someone else pays! In the end, the only real question is whether the UK will lift quarantine for travellers to Spain or parts of the country. At the moment there is no indication among my sources that that’s a possibility whatever Spain or the EU offers, and even if it were, the latest figures in the UK itself would put a question mark over it.

  15. They should never have stopped their normal services because Covid only accounts for a tiny fraction of the normal causes of death. So by reducing things like cancer treatment they will cause far more deaths in the long run.

    And by ruining the economy they will not have money to fund the health service in the future, so again cause more deaths than they ever saved. One of the government scientists said as much today.

  16. Chris – Perhaps, had the NHS not been deprived of funding over the last however many decades (irrespective of which party in power) it might not be in such a desperate state now. It’s going to take forever to get it back on its feet never mind to full health again – a pandemic was just what it needed this year (or not!!)

  17. The only incentive for the UK to facilitate foreign travel is to keep the airlines afloat. Not sure that is high on their priorities as they seem quite happy to ruin most businesses involved in leisure and entertainment to “save the NHS”.

  18. My own personal view: people need to get real. Mass tourisim here for this winter season is as dead as the proverbial parrot. End of. Additionally, it’s likely that UK lawmakers (and others) have enough on there plate (given covid and brexit) and I’m guessing air travel for holiday makers wanting to pop over to Tenerife this Christmas is somewhat low in their current list of priorities, despite the more than optomistic views of our local political leaders.

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