TOURISTS travelling to Tenerife, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria for some winter sunshine are set to be tested for coronavirus at the start and end of their holidays.
Spain’s Tourism Minister Maria Reyes Maroto has confirmed the Canary Islands will have tests in place “in the short term” as part of the country’s efforts to set up ‘safe’ air corridors with the likes of the UK.
Spain has been on the UK's quarantine list since July 26, with more than 600,000 cases of coronavirus.
She made the pledge after a meeting with Canary Islands president Angel Victor Torres.
Yesterday, rapid coronavirus tests said to cost €15 and take just two minutes were emerging as the favourite.
Gran Canaria daily newspaper Canarias 7 said the quick test, which works like a breathalyser used by police to see if drivers are over the limit, was at the moment the preferred option over another lead candidate which costs double and takes an hour to come up with the result.
The tests would take place at island airports, and could be extended to all travellers although tourists are the focus at the moment.
Mrs Reyes Maroto says the Spanish government is now working on persuading countries like the UK to recognise the coronavirus tests carried out in the Canary Islands as “valid.”
Getting Spain’s main foreign tourism markets to give the tests their backing is being seen as crucial because it will pave the way for the removal of quarantine rules blamed for the country’s worst-ever tourist season.
On Monday it emerged the number of British tourists visiting Spain in July had dropped by more than 80 per cent, from 2.2 million to only 378,000, after the UK government’s decision to make returning holidaymakers self-isolate on their return.
The plunge meant Britain was knocked off its traditional top spot as Spain’s most important foreign tourism market for the first time in decades as it was replaced by France.
Unlike the Spanish mainland, the Canary Islands’ peak season runs from around November to March.
Although Spain’s Tourism Minister has only come out publicly in support of rapid coronavirus tests for the Canaries only so far, tourism officials in the Balearic Islands are insisting her commitment also extends to their region.
One said yesterday: “Anything approved will be applied in the Canaries and the Balearic Islands.”
But Mrs Reyes Maroto’s open support of the Canaries was criticised by authorities on the Costa del Sol, where daytime temperatures in winter can reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit and places like Marbella are blessed by nine months of blue skies.
Francisco Salado, president of Tourism for the Costa del Sol, told respected Malaga daily Sur: “This is a new case of discrimination and intolerable injustice by the Spanish government, which favours some areas over others.
“We have been demanding airport tests like those carried out in other countries for months now.”
Costa del Sol Hoteliers Association AEHCOS is predicting 80 per cent of hotels will be closed this winter.
President Luis Callejon Sune said today/yesterday (TUE): “Coronavirus is incompatible with tourism.”
Alvaro Reyes, a director at the four-star Alay Hotel in Benalmadena, added: “We’ve never closed in winter but the reality is there’s no demand.
“We hope to be able to re-open in March.”
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