British tourists planning a holiday in the Canary Islands in the next few weeks will need to test negative for coronavirus or they will be refused access to their accommodation.
The Canary government confirmed this evening that all national and foreign holidaymakers arriving on the islands, including Tenerife, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria, will need to bring along a Covid-free certificate endorsed between 48 and 72 hours of their arrival.
If they don't, they will be required to take a coronavirus test at a private clinic or public health and the tourist will pay the bill. If they are positive, they will not be allowed to stay in their hotel, apartment or holiday home and will have to go into quarantine.
Further details have yet to be announced but the Canary president, Ángel Víctor Torres and Minister of Tourism, Yaiza Castillo have released preliminary details of the decree law the regional government wants to approve this week.
It will set the ball rolling on Tuesday and anticipates that a new "right of admission" law can be passed within 15 days.
The Canary government says it hopes to have found the "legal engineering" necessary to become the first autonomous community in Spain to establish this type of control.
Leaders were concerned that efforts to implement tests at source or on arrival were fraught with legal difficulties and had been turned down "time and time again by different national and European bodies."
Yaiza Castilla said the Canary government recognised it cannot directly impose a test to travellers from the rest of Spain or from another country but can exercise its right of admission in regulated accommodation, which will ask their clients for a PCR or negative antigen test done a maximum of 72 hours before.
The announcement follows a meeting of the Advisory Council of the President of the Government of the Canary Islands today and is intended to protect everyone's health and maintain the downward trend of coronavirus cases in the archipelago.
The UK government on Sunday lifted its 14-day quarantine rule for Brits on their return from the Canaries, the only place in Spain to win the concession.
The islands are also the sole Spanish destination where Spain's new night-time curfew is not in place, again due to the low number of coronavirus cases.
Yaiza Castilla said the draft of the decree law will be referred on Tuesday to the legal services to be validated and, later, sent to the Governing Council; it will enter into force one day after being published in the Official Gazette of the Canary Islands.
Ángel Víctor Torres said it would be the first document of these characteristics approved by an autonomous community and has been "unanimously endorsed" by unions, employers and councils.
The procedure, if confirmed and approved, would be different from what the Canary government initially envisaged ie tests on arrival at the airport of, given the non-approval of the airport authority, in the receptions of hotels. It was also originally intended to pay for the tests via public and private funds.
The Canary government says it doesn't want to risk everything it has achieved, given that source markets such as the UK and Germany have a higher incidence of coronavirus.
The new rule will apply at first to "tourists" but the island leaders have not ruled out some sort of formula for other travellers who arrive in the Canaries for different reasons.
Once agreed, details of the new requirement will be "broadcast" across Europe via tour operators, hotel chains, travel agencies and embassies, so that everyone knows that they need a test.
Yaiza Castilla said the decree will be open enough so that the certificates issued by health organisations or clinics from all the countries of origin of the tourists are accepted.
At this moment, the Canary Islands favour antigen tests, capable of detecting covid infection with very high reliability, in minutes and at a very low cost (20-30 euros, compared to more than 100 for a PCR).
The decree law will also suggest to tourists to download the Radar Covid mobile application, to facilitate the tracking (completely anonymous) of their contacts if a positive occurs.
The issue of coronavirus tests for tourists when they leave the Canary Islands has been left open at the moment.
Today, the Canaries reported just 60 new cases of coronavirus and one death, the lowest tally since August 8th.
Stringent coronavirus restrictions remain in force on all the islands, including the mandatory wearing of masks and the closure of pubs and restaurants at either midnight or 1am depending on the location.
Some tourism leaders were worried that the Canary government might back-track on its pledge to make sure holidaymakers were coronavirus-free and hoteliers were beginning to question the idea of testing in hotels and contributing towards the costs.
The Canary government feels its new proposal will be the answer to all those reservations.
Brits are already slowly returning to the islands where the new winter season begins on November 1st and more planes are expected as the days progress.
Initial reaction from locals is one of praise for the Canary government for sticking to its guns and not putting the pressing need to rejuvenate tourism before health protection.
Until the new law comes into force, Brits arriving in the Canaries need to pre-fill health questionnaires, obtain a tracking code and have their temperature taken on arrival at the airports.
If displaying any symptoms of coronavirus, they would then have to undergo a medical check-up.