Aligning itself with fellow European Union (EU) nations, Spain has recently tightened restrictions on inbound travelers, both from within Europe and across the pond, and will now require most American travelers to have a booster for entry.
The Iberian country, which has registered some of the highest number of Covid cases in Europe since the pandemic first started, is once again strengthening its border policy in response to the ongoing Omicron wave, and U.S. citizens are among those affected.
The New Requirements For Americans Traveling To Spain
Following a meeting of the European Council last December, the so-called EU Digital Covid Certificate, issued to those who have been immunized against the virus across the bloc, had a binding validity period set for the first time since its introduction.
It came as a response to the patchwork of Covid regulations adopted by member states, especially those comprising the Schengen Area, a free movement zone that allows EU nationals and tourists alike to move seamlessly without identity checks.
As a result, from February 1, Spanish authorities will require United States visitors, as well as Canadians and any other foreign nationals, to have proof of a booster shot if the original vaccination course took place more than 270 days, or 9 months, prior to arrival.
As it had been the case with the second, and then final dose, the booster must be taken at least 14 days prior to the border crossing. With the updated guidelines, Spain joins a number of other Schengen countries that have already accepted the EU-wide validity period.
Whether they are flying to Spain directly or via another European country, Americans should seek official information for specific countries in advance, as some EU member states are applying even shorter validity periods for vaccine certificates, such as Greece and Hungary.
Others like France are going a step further and also requiring proof of a booster dose to allow entry into restaurants and museums, with negative, consecutive Covid tests no longer accepted for that purpose.
Previously, Spain considered an individual to be fully vaccinated once they had received two doses of an European Medicines Agency – EMA approved vaccine. Now, if 9 months have elapsed since vaccination and no booster was given, you may face further restrictions when traveling to Spain and around Europe.
Despite Stricter Protocols, Spain Considers Treating Covid As Endemic
Even though stricter entry rules are being applied from February 1, and at a time when most of Europe battles its highest ever Covid surge, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has stated the government is exploring “how and when” the country should move from treating the virus as a pandemic to simply an endemic illness.
An endemic disease generally means a pathogen is no longer more deadly than other widespread illnesses, nor requires protective measures to halt its spread. Paradoxically, it could mean that Spain may soon be rolling back curbs on social life and relaxing Covid rules.
Health Minister Carolina Darias has echoed Sánchez, saying that Spain needs to go “from an emergency-style vigilance to one of better quality and which is compatible with other respiratory phenomena”. According to Darias, “Spain wants to lead this debate“.
For now, the 9 month-validity period for vaccines is still set to come into force from February 1, and travelers must continue to comply with any requirements enacted at the borders, including the completion of a Health Control Form before departure.
On the other hand, The World Health Organization (WHO) has been clear developed nations should refrain from describing Covid as endemic, especially when other parts of the world still struggle with vaccine distribution and where the virus is still very much an “acute emergency“.
Currently, the CDC advises Americans to avoid all unnecessary travel to Spain, especially if unvaccinated, as Covid levels are very high. The stark advice has not discouraged United Airlines from launching new direct flights to two of Spain’s most popular destinations, starting next summer.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com