The President of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, and the Minister of Tourism, Yaiza Castilla, are to hold talks with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Tourism, and representatives of the British Government, to try to prevent UK tourists from being subjected to the 14 day “self isolation” quarantine, announced this Saturday evening, when returning from their holidays on the islands. No warning was given ahead of the announcement.

Popular tour operator TUI reacted angrily to the UK announcement this evening, immediately cancelling all flights to the islands, while other operators say they will continue to fly, many, such as Jet2, are rumoured to be having high level meetings to discuss whether or not they will continue to bring tourists from the UK, even if it is safe, if they are going to have to self isolate for up to 14 days on return.  All are trying to encourage tourists to rebook, or accept vouchers for a future trip rather than cancelling and seeking refunds.

Businesses on Gran Canaria have reacted with anger, disappointment and confusion, following one of the strictest and most successful lockdowns in the world, with very low infection and death rates, having just started to reopen the tourism economy in what is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for British visitors.  Everyone here understands that safety comes first, and that is what we have achieved, but still we will suffer on the basis of resurgent outbreaks, on the mainland more than 1,500 km away in peninsular Spain; it makes little sense to those struggling to get back to working again here on the islands, with so much investment, time and focus having gone in to making sure it is safe to do so.

See the latest Canary Islands Covid19 infection data, updated daily, here

Torres appreciates that the Canary Islands have in fact been excluded from the British Government’s recommendation to avoid non-essential travel to Spain, this Saturday evening, and has asked Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arancha González Laya, and Minister for Tourism, Reyes Maroto, to urgently request the creation of “safe and direct air corridors between the Canary Islands and the United Kingdom”, after the UK decided to recommend that their citizens avoid all travel to Spain, with the exception of the Canary and Balearic Islands, however, maintained that those returning, any time after midnight on July 26, would still have to ‘self isolate’ for 14 days.

The Canary Islands is one of the areas in Europe with the lowest incidence of COVID-19, just 5.8 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, which makes it one of the safest destinations to visit this summer.

The Canary Islands Regional Government is coordinating its efforts with the Balearic Islands President, Francina Armengol, maintaining open communication with representatives of the United Kingdom, in the hope of influencing the instruction to quarantine all travellers returning from Spain, and to clarify the British Governments own exclusion of the Canary Islands and Balearic Islands from the recommendation to avoid travel to Spain, that is to say, there are no restrictions on visiting the islands, but those returning from the islands are still subject to the same rules as elsewhere in the country.

So the question now is whether or not the UK Government will recognise their own assessment, of it still being safe to travel to the Canary Islands, and thereby exclude the islands from the quarantine rules, upon arrival back to their country, on the basis that the threat has been shown to be much less here than for the rest of Spain or elsewhere in Europe. That includes the UK.

Yaiza Castilla, The Canary Islands’ Regional Minister for Tourism, Industry and Commerce, has also had a first conversation with UK ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliot, requesting more details about this decision and conveying the importance of maintaining a direct and safe round trip route.  Castilla has made clear that this measure going ahead, in its current form, would be of serious detriment to the Canary Islands, due to the repercussions for the tourism sector, just when connectivity with the United Kingdom was beginning to recover, coupled with the image of security and safety that has already been successfully conveyed on the basis of the extremely low prevalence of Corona Virus here on the islands.

Throughout the late evening, various departments of the Canary Islands Government have been maintaining permanent open communications with the Spanish State Administrations, the Embassy of the United Kingdom and with the Secretary of State of the European Union to assert the exceptional situation here in the archipelago, where entry by ship and plane is highly controlled, and COVID-19 almost non-existent, with just 185 active cases detected out of a population of 2.1 million people, and just 39 active on Gran Canaria, all being monitored, and no deaths for nearly a month and a half, the important question is being asked: Just what does “safe” mean?

Source: Canary Islands Government