While the tourists stay away, a humanitarian crisis looms, keeping people employed, at least for now, in hospitality
Sep, 2020 | #TheCanaryCoronaVirus, #TheCanaryMigrantCrisis, #Tourism0, Cabildo, Economy, employment, Government, Health, Immigrants, Local Council, Mogán, politics, Tourism, Transport, Transport |
Masks mandatory everywhere: Canary Islands restricts nightlife despite lowest number of infections in Spain
Aug, 2020 | #TheCanaryCoronaVirus, #Tourism0, Alerts, Business, Economy, Events & Leisure, Family, Government, Health, Las Palmas, Maspalomas, Mogán, Playa del Inglés, Police, politics, Tourism |
Latest Gran Canaria News, Views & Sunshine
La Alcaldesa Bueno Secures Incredible Majority in Mogán
May, 2023 |
Mogán, May 29, 2023 – The often controversial incumbent, O Bueno, La Alcaldesa, has achieved an unprecedented and resounding victory once more in Mogán. The candidate who switched her party’s name, for these elections, to “Juntos por Mogán”, a local ally of the regionalist conservatives “Coalición Canaria” (CC), will once again assume the role of mayor. Her party has clinched a rather noteworthy 17 out of the 21 seats in the Municipal Council of this popular tourism destination located on the sunny southwest of Gran Canaria.
UD Las Palmas Celebrate Return to La Liga First Division in Grand Style after Gran Canaria Stadium Goalless Draw with Alavés
May, 2023 |
UD Las Palmas made a glorious comeback to the First Division in a thrilling encounter against Deportivo Alavés that kept fans on the edge of their seats until the final whistle. In front of a raucous near-capacity-crowd of 31,790, Las Palmas sealed their return ticket to the top flight with a hard-fought goalless draw in the season’s photo finish.
The Canary Guide Día de Canarias #WeekendTips 26-28 May 2023
May, 2023 |
What an interesting last weekend of May ahead. Weather predictions are showing some rain showers are likely across Gran Canaria. This extended #WeekendTips covers up to Tuesday, when all things Canarian are celebrated on the Día de Canarias. There’ll be some gorgeous Patron Saints’ festivities happening in San Fernando de Maspalomas as well as in Valleseco.
Valleseco literally means “dry valley” in Spanish, but is actually one of the wettest municipalities Gran Canaria. Nestling between the famous fresh water sources of Firgas & Teror, half way up the island’s mountainous northern slopes, this area is well known for its apple growers, cider and its weekly market
Six weeks since the unexplained disappearance of Anna-Karin on Gran Canaria
May, 2023 |
The authorities on Gran Canaria have been engaged in a rigorous search for Swedish tourist Anna-Karin Bengtsson, who went missing in the south of Gran Canaria around April 9. Her unexplained disappearance has caused her family much distress, with no clues to her whereabouts having emerged in the six weeks since they first realised her phone was no longer functioning.
The Canary Guide #WeekendTips 19-21 May 2023
May, 2023 |
An exciting May weekend ahead with abundant events and festivities taking place all around Gran Canaria. There are Patron Saints’ festivities for Motor Grande, in Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria, and in El Tablero in the municipality of San Bartolomé de Tirajana and up in the mountains of Artenara. There is also a two day lively exhibition event in Meloneras boulevard and the Rally Gran Canaria is held this Friday and Saturday.
#IFArico: Gran Canaria firefighters help more than 300 fire fighters with the Tenerife forest fire which continues uncontrolled
The Cabildo de Gran Canaria this Friday morning sent troops to assist in the extinction of the Tenerife forest fire declared on Thursday, May 20 in the municipality of Arico. Two forestry brigades, a “presa” team and a “bravo” team, with four commanders, have travelled to Tenerife. The contingent plan is made up of two fire engines and eight light vehicles, they travelled by sea to integrate with the rest of the teams, of more than 300 firefighters and at least 7 aircraft, in the work of extinguishing the flames, which have now affected an area of more than 1,500 hectares within a perimeter of 16km.
The president of the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, Antonio Morales, recalled that “???? ??????? has received help from the other islands on many occasions to put out fires” so will always be ready to “collaborate as soon as they request it.” He also sent encouragement to the population and authorities of Tenerife and hoped that “the fire can be controlled and extinguished as soon as possible without casualties and with the least environmental and material damage”.
More than 300 ground troops and 7 aircraft, including seaplanes and helicopters are working to extinguish the forest fire declared in Arico #TENERIFE.
The perimeter this afternoon of the #IFArico stood at about 16km in an approximate area of at least 1,500 hectares. Work has been carried out with greater intensity along the left flank and the west flank is being monitored due to its proximity to the Barranco de El Río. Two more seaplanes have been requested to be included into the extinction tasks. Fire fighting teams have gathered from across the islands to assist.
#IFArico continues uncontrolled without a fixed perimeter, more than 1,500 hectares have been affected so far although not the entire area has been burned, the forecast is that the situation will improve over time, despite the strong winds hampering efforts to bring the blaze to heel.
Gran Canaria summer season starts with the most ever air routes to mainland Spain
May, 2021 | Tourism
The Gran Canaria summer season will start boasting the greatest ever number of air connections to mainland Spain, now having direct links with 21 cities on the Peninsula. 460,000 airline seats will be available for the months of June, July and August, similar levels to those last seen in 2019, the summer before the global health crisis.
These announcements were made on the first day of International Tourism Fair FITUR, in Madrid, which opened yesterday signalling a return to tourism activity after the 2020 hiatus, with an atmosphere of optimism among tourism operators and institutions all reading signs of reactivation in the sector, starting with Spanish national tourism, which is the third most important market for Gran Canaria after Germany, and the United Kingdom.
According to president of the island government, the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, Antonio Morales, “the data is very positive, we are in a position to affirm, according to the airlines, that for this summer visitor figures [similar to] 2019 can be recovered, in addition to incorporating new destinations“. Morales insisted, however, that it is necessary to “exercise responsibility” pointing out how important it is “not to lower our guard” saying “that the circumstances are occurring to recover tourism”, a process that new outbreaks could cut short.
Gran Canaria’s Councillor for Tourism, Carlos Álamo, also expressed optimism for the summer with interest received from agencies, tour operators and tourism agents and the milestone of connections with 21 airports to the Peninsula and to the eastern Balearic Islands this summer. “It is very important for the reactivation of a sector that has been very damaged and that, with respect to national tourists, not only recovers one hundred percent of the previous connections expanding more than ever before. We have communities like Asturias and Galicia to which five airlines are going to offer fixed routes this summer. In addition, this is a client of great interest to the destination for being above average in expenses. This confirms the interest in travelling to Gran Canaria and helps us face the summer with a certain degree of optimism ”, explained the counsellor and president of the Patronato de Turismo, Gran Canaria Tourist Board.
The cities of Reus and Jérez join those with direct flights to the island for the first time, and connectivity with Galicia and Asturias has been reinforced, with 5 different companies operating routes from these two communities in the north of Spain. The UK Ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliot, attended the inauguration of the stand for Gran Canaria, where he had the opportunity to exchange views with Antonio Morales and Carlos Álamo.
On March 10 the deadline period for requesting direct aid for Canary Islands small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) and self-employed (Autonomos) started and will be open until April
Mar, 2021 | #Tourism0, Business, Economy, employment, Government, News, Tourism
The first day of the Canary Islands deadline period for requesting direct aid for small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) and self-employed (Autonomos) saw 1,147 claims processed through the four chambers of commerce throughout the autonomous community “and endless calls” aimed primarily at resolving questions and doubts. The extraordinary financial aid measure, launched by the Canary Islands Government, has an budget of €84 million, aimed at alleviating damages within the sectors most affected by the covid-19 pandemic response and, according to the regional president, Ángel Víctor Torres, and the Minister of Employment, Elena Máñez, will take effect in “a few days” time.
Of the more than 1,000 files presented on March 10, 369 were from self-employed people without salaried employees, for a line of aid endowed with a budget of €18 million. 778 applications were from small and medium-sized companies and freelancers with employees, for whom €66 million has been set aside, according to data provided by the Chamber of Commerce of Gran Canaria.
The bulk of the “endless calls” received on Wednesday at the chambers of commerce were aimed at resolving doubts, especially regarding the justification for losses being claimed against. To access the funds, companies are required to have suffered a drop in income of at least 30% and need to demonstrate cessation of activity. In addition, as indicated by the Lanzarote Chamber, many businessmen wanted to know the possibility of making these aids compatible with subsidies offered by other administrations. A total of 220 calls were answered on Wednesday and the numbers are expected to increase over the coming days. The application deadline lasts for 20 days from march 10 to April 8 2021.
The Fuerteventura Chamber reported the same large number of enquiries last week. Its president, Antonio Rodríguez Marichal, indicated that 45 applications were processed on the first day in a day when “the phones did not stop ringing.” He described the Government initiative to have the chambers to manage these subsidies as “real success” due to their permeability in the business fabric of the islands and hoped that they can also be collaborating entities to help channel the 11,000 million of aid announced by the State
A special phone line number has been enabled to answer all these calls regarding direct aid, 900 909 519, which is attended by almost 120 people from the four chambers of commerce, who received an intensive training course. Almost half of the staff (57) are in the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Chamber, which serves the four islands of that province, while another 39 staff are on Gran Canaria, 10 on Fuerteventura, and 12 on Lanzarote.
Despite the significant increase in the volume of calls registered, according to the Ministry of Employment “there were no serious problems” during the first day on Wednesday March 10 although they did acknowledge that there were “intermittent cuts” on the Government websites where applications are entered. However, according to some users who tried to do their processing directly, the pages were without service “for hours.”
The deadline for submitting direct aid applications will be open until April 8 and files that are correctly completed will be attended to in order of arrival. Subsidies can be obtained by companies that prove a loss of income of at least 30% in the last semester of 2020 compared to the previous year and the amount of the same – which ranges between 1,000 euros and 25,000 euros – will take into account number of employees of the applicant company. The €84 million that the Government of the Canary Islands has advanced to alleviate the damages incurred by SMEs and the self-employed will be charged to the European Union’s “React program”. Another €80 million will be added to this item to pay the IBI property taxes of tourist establishments.
? Importante ‼️
Las solicitudes de ayudas se pueden presentar a partir del 10 de marzo y exclusivamente por estas dos vías:
✅ Autónomos sin personas asalariadas:https://t.co/jJCmoR5K4K
✅ Pymes y autónomos con personas asalariadas:https://t.co/P8HSKn4U8R pic.twitter.com/VGXhXEC3IG
— Economía Gobcan (@EcoGobCan) March 9, 2021
The Canary News
President Ángel Víctor Torres is confident that alert levels will drop on Gran Canaria next week
Feb, 2021 | #TheCanaryCoronaVirus, Government, Health, Las Palmas, News, politics
The President of the Government of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, has expressed his confidence that alert levels currently in force will be lowered on some of the islands as of next week. “The Minister of Health will appear on Sunday with an updated report and will announce that the levels will change as of Monday,” Torres said after the Governing Council meeting on Thursday afternoon.
According to the president, Gran Canaria will move back down to Alert Level 2 and Fuerteventura to level 1, while the next few days will decide whether Lanzarote will drop from the current Añert Level 4. “The levels are going to change, presumably it will be better on islands like Gran Canaria, which would go from level 3 to 2, and Fuerteventura, which would go from level 2 to 1,” he said. He also recalled that the anti-covid measures prohibiting carnival celebrations remain in force until Monday. La Palma, El Hierro and La Gomera will likely continue with their current alert levels.
Ángel Víctor Torres warned that the Government have discussed “a slight rebound” in infections on the island of Tenerife at the meeting, but did not suggest whether the alert level will increase. “If the trend of recent days continues, some islands will drop in level,” was his primary remark. Even so, the president asked for prudence: “I have to appeal to responsibility, things are being done well by Canarian society. Let’s not put what we have achieved at risk.”
Forty days of abstinence till Easter
Traditional carnival celebrations, which would usually culminate this week as the start to Lent in the run up to easter, were suspended on all islands to help ensure infection rates continued to be kept under control. The data on Gran Canaria has been improving for some days now and the island will be relieved to return to Alert Level 2. Though this in itself is unlikely to affect tourism in the short term, it allows us to build on previous good work as we head into the Spring, and with luck (and vaccinations) we can start looking forward to reopening to international travellers as we head for summer. With luck and care (and vaccinations) we may even be able to receive visitors by Easter, so long as they too keep infection rates under control this will provide a much needed shot in the arm for suffering tourist businesses.
For the latest data on The Canary Islands COVID-19 situation, updated daily, you can bookmark and check our main mobile dashboard here, of for a more feature rich experience check out the desktop device dashboard here.
?️The president of #Canarias, @avtorresp, announces that this Sunday the minister of @SanidadGobCan Health, Blas Trujillo, to convey the foreseeable changes in the alert levels of some Islands, as agreed today by the Governing Council pic.twitter.com/feyp0wR4oK
— Presidencia GobCan (@PresiCan) February 18, 2021
The Canary News
Canary Islands announce support plan for sectors most affected by the COVID crisis with an extra €400 million in aid
Jan, 2021 | #TheCanaryCoronaVirus, Business, Community, Economy, Government, News, Tourism
The President of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, and the vice president, Román Rodríguez, presented last week the regional support plan of extraordinary measures to help the sub-sectors of restaurants, bars, hospitality, commerce and sports companies most affected due to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the health restrictions applied in response. The new program of measures contemplates a total of €400 million, in addition to the €95.3 million in direct contributions distributed since March 2020 by the regional Executive for air and maritime transport, the agricultural sector, the self-employed, culture and other productive areas.
This is the highest budget extraordinary support plan presented by any Spanish autonomous community for those most affected sub-sectors, taking into account the state average and the economic capacity of the Canary Islands. €165m is aimed at direct non-refundable aid, based on the effects of the pandemic on the different businesses. To administrate this, an application call will be opened, with a goal of maximum speed, objectivity and effectiveness, in compliance with current regulations. In any case, the Executive is convinced that this package of direct aid will be in place during this first quarter of 2021.
The other €235.8m corresponds to the postponement of the Canarian General Indirect Tax (IGIC) of the first quarter of 2021 (a total of €195m) and tax debts for six months, which is expected to be approved in the Governing Council this Thursday, entering into force from its publication in the Official Gazette of the Canary Islands (BOC). The collection of IGIC corresponding to April will be delayed until September and, to compensate it, the Government will resort to a credit policy, although without ceasing to contribute what corresponds to municipal councils and city councils for that period so that they do not fall into default.
The regional president highlighted the relevance of this program of measures and those already processed by the Canary Islands during 2020. As indicated, they will complement those included in the decree of the last Council of Ministers in 2020 and will alleviate the effects of the restrictions on all the islands, regardless of the alert level that they have had during each phase. “This is the most important economic proposal that has been made by any community, which is also the most affected in [terms of] tourism, restaurants and commerce” Torres pointed out.
The regional Executive wants the €165m in direct aid to come from the React-EU European recovery funds. For this, explained Román Rodríguez, it has been proposed to the central government that they, in turn, propose to the EU a restructuring of how part of these community resources are to be used. The final proposal will be presented before the 31st of this month and the Government hopes that it will be approved. Otherwise, another extraordinary loan will be used to cover that €165m.
The Canary Islands Government highlighted state aid measures, such as the flexibility of grace periods for ICO credits or the extension of ERTES until May 31. In this sense, they emphasised that aid has covered €4 billion in credits throughout 2020 and €1.5b in ERTE payments across the Islands. However, they feel that it should be complemented with an extra package that does not affect the €8.5b of regional budget for 2021 which can be expanded through contributions from each Cabildo within their budgetary items for this new year. Regional accounts this year prioritise basic rights and add a further €646m for Health and Education, which has allowed the hiring of some 7,000 professionals.
Agile and objective support plan procedures for hotels and apartments
The support plan also contemplates that this aid be complemented by municipal councils and city councils, as they are the ones who manage compensation of collections such as the Real Estate Tax ( IBI), for which it is still necessary to negotiate. The regional executive understands that the IBI is a good way to help because it is an objective receipt and easy to verify and process, apart from the collection of local taxes such as garbage and others. Torres also indicated that it is being considered how they might streamline the management of aid with the support of the chambers of commerce in order to achieve maximum certainty and tranquility for entrepreneurs.
The president and vice president said that they have worked with the various sectors with the aim to reach the most objective and agile ways for direct aid to arrive as quickly as possible “because we know that we must be with the sectors that have been most affected”. “In absolute and relative values, this support plan is above all other communities, despite the fact that some of them have been more damaged by health restrictions, but the islands require it to alleviate the worst crisis in our history,” said Rodríguez.
Torres pointed out that help is planned for “more than 20,000 companies, including 5,423 restaurants, 1,300 cafeterias and 348 sports facilities.” The president thanked the representatives of the affected sub-sectors and, like Rodríguez, insisted that the key continues to be to control of the pandemic with compliance with regulations and vaccination. They highlighted the rhythm of administration of the doses on the Islands, which has made the Archipelago a leader among the regions of Spain in percentage terms, with achievements such as Tenerife and La Gomera being the only places in the country that have reduced infection contacts over Christmas after the restrictions put in place.
The president insisted that they have never wanted to close any business, but that the established and assessed rules are applied, so he conceives this extraordinary aid plan as “a relief” and predicts that, thanks to the vaccination, “things will get better”.
The Canary News
Spain does not currently recognise or approve antigen tests for foreign travellers, ignoring Canary Islands decree
Dec, 2020 | #TheCanaryCoronaVirus, #Tourism0, Community, Government, Health, politics, Transport, Transport
Spanish State Council have recommended that last week’s regional decree from the Canary Islands Government, intending to approve antigen tests for foreign tourists to be used to prove that they do not have coronavirus, be overturned. The non-binding legal opinion, from the supreme advisory body to the Spanish Government, sets guidelines for the central Executive in Madrid. Spain’s Health Minister, Salvador Illa, did not approve the regulation, declared by the regional government, meant to expand the imposition of the PCR test beyond what was originally stipulated. Canary Islands President, Ángel Víctor Torres, and his regional autonomous government, want foreign visitors to be able to come to the Archipelago using either the slightly more accurate and much more expensive PCR tests, or antigen test results, which are faster and much cheaper.
The objective was to avoid the high cost of the PCR, which can be up to €150 per person, making holidays in the Canary Islands more expensive for English, German or Dutch visitors, three of the primary source markets, who are also ranked as of “High Risk” by the ECDC. The Canary Islands have been doing all that they can to try to save their winter tourism season, although mobility restrictions across much of Europe has, in practice, shattered any hopes of achieving that goal. Be that as it may, Illa has not given in to pressure to agree with The Canary Islands insistence on following the ECDC and European Council advice, over Spanish territorial law. The Minister has instead chosen to ignore the autonomous decree (in force since last Thursday);
The opinion of the advisory body chaired by María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, former vice president and former socialist minister in the previous Spanish central governments of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, leaves the authorization of antigens for the screening of foreign tourists solely in the hands of the Ministry of Health. The Spanish Government have chosen to simply ignore the the Autonomous Community’s decree and have not changed a thing to comply with the regional decree, in practice refusing to recognised that anything has changed since its approval last week. Mar Faraco, the president of the Association of Foreign Health Doctors, the officials in charge of public health controls at ports and airport entrances, has simply explained that the Spanish Ministry’s instruction is clear: only PCRs are valid and, are the only available alternative to being turned away, isolation on arrival or even being fined.
Aware that the decree would have no effect without Madrid’s collaboration, Torres himself has been insisting over recent days on the need to “harmonise” state and regional regulations to approve antigen tests. The President of the Canary Islands has recognised that the Ministry of Health have different “scientific criteria” on the suitability of these tests, but the truth is that Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Cabinet have taken the view that the Government of the Canary Islands have over reached in assuming powers over territorial borders that in no case correspond to their competence. Legal advisors to the regional Executive understand that the delegation of powers in favour of regional presidents during the state of alarm includes the validation of entry and exit requirements from the territory, as well as establishment of protocols related to public health.
Ángel Víctor Torres, has this Wednesday said in the Regional Parliament that he remains thoroughly convinced antigen tests will be implemented for visitors arriving on the islands, and for this reason he has said that they will continue talking with Madrid to harmonise a common position on the subject.
Torres recalled that the Canary Islands has been a pioneer in the request to use antigen tests and added that it has been impossible to harmonise this criterion due to scientific differences, but made clear that the Canary Islands Executive has acted “with coherence” and “if it is now established that they invade the powers of the State, we will have to defend ourselves legally and continue talking with the Government of Spain” he said.
@avtorresp on the decree for the control of travellers by means of antigens: “If we approved a tourist decree before the resolution, it was mandatory that we defend with another decree what was done previously. We act defending the interests of the Canary Islands” https://t.co/o03OTG6Ewn
— The Canary (@TheCanaryNews) December 16, 2020
The solution to the conflict between the State and the Autonomous Community has only two possible paths: “harmonisation”, as demanded by the Canarian president, where the Spanish Ministry of Health agrees to approve antigen tests as valid for arriving foreigners; or a judicial dispute in which the Canary Islands would have little hope of winning, particularly following the published opinion of the State Council, and little to gain, since the Foreign Health doctors depend on Madrid and will not accept orders other than those from Madrid. By the time the legal controversy could be resolved, a vaccine is likely to already be starting to become widespread and the discussion would have no practical function.
The opinion of the State Council only concerns regulations on the arrival of foreign tourists, but there is also news about the obligations for Canarian residents who return from the rest of Spain during the holidays.
The Ministry of Health yesterday published an order that regulates the return home for Christmas of thousands of islanders who are temporarily in the Spanish mainland, the vast majority of them students. From this Friday, when the order comes into force, these people will have to prove that they are not carriers of Covid-19 by presenting negative results which can be one of three types of test: PCR, a TMA or, in this case, can also approve antigen tests. They must be tested within 72 hours prior to their return to the Archipelago, but it will be the Canary Islands Health Service (SCS) that will pay the costs. To do this, returning Canary Islands residents will have to be tested at one of the laboratories that have signed agreements with the Canary Islands Ministry of Health – distributed throughout Spain and listed on the SCS website – and present their flight receipt and a “Canarian resident voucher”, which must also be downloaded from the SCS website. In the event that anyone who comes from the Peninsula is not a Canarian resident, the obligation is the same, though they will have to pay for their own test, at a “special price” using the “Canarian non-resident voucher” (this is also on the SCS website).
Those who cannot prove that they have undergone the analysis must do so within 72 hours after arrival and are obliged to confine themselves to their residence or accommodation until the result is obtained.
The Canary News
Canary Islands decree they will accept Antigen tests for travellers and holidaymakers on arrival
Dec, 2020 | #TheCanaryCoronaVirus, #Tourism0, Economy, Government, News, politics, Tourism, Transport, Transport
It has been confusing, all this talk of testing for COVID-19. Canary Islands Regional Minister for Tourism, Yaiza Castilla, and Canary Islands President, Ángel Víctor Torres, have been demanding tests for travellers since at least March of this year, when the pandemic responses across Europe and the world near enough shut down tourism. Once the first peak was passed, the Canary Islands Regional Government already had in place various methodologies and protocols that would allow them to promote this as one of the safest destinations in the world. Their efforts, however have been repeatedly hampered by the slow speed of the Spanish State in trying to regulate tests for travellers, as well as confusion coming from the EU while they tried to create Europe-wide rules that could be implemented across the continent, and in particular between member-states. It is this wrangling over exact legal frameworks that led The Canary Islands to successfully argue to be recognised as a low risk region with very positive control of coronavirus infections, to be included in the national lists of safe corridors, despite much of Spain still being seen as a high risk territory.
When, six months later, the Spanish Government and the EU had not yet announced testing for travellers and how it might affect the Free Movement of Peoples, a pillar of the union itself, The Canary Islands managed to come up with a regional tourism regulation which, although it could not be applied to airports, meant that all tourist accommodation on the islands were required to verify a negative test result, either PCR or antigen, before allowing any foreign traveller to check in to a hotel or tourist apartment. No sooner had that been announced, along with the hope of saving the main winter tourist season for the archipelago, than Spain eventually decided to allow tests for travellers at airports, specifically requiring a PCR test result from anyone arriving from a high risk territory. In the mean time, over the weeks that followed, and while winter bookings remained dismally low, the European Commission announced their recommendation that rapid antigen tests be accepted as well as PCR tests for international travellers. Subsequently, last week, the European Commission also recommended that travellers within Europe need not be systematically tested at all, saying that the risk in transit is very small and that efforts should instead be concentrated on giving the best information regarding both origin and destination for travellers to ensure they follow those regulations in place to control infection at either end of their journey.
Of course all of this has led to many points of confusion among travellers and tourism businesses. It is hoped that today’s meeting for the EU 27 leaders will lead to an announcement of their having accepted the European Commission’s two recent recommendations on tests for travellers, which in turn will result in a EU-wide policy, easy enough for everyone to follow, perhaps soon enough to help rescue the industry as a whole. For now however the race is on for The Canary Islands to save their main tourism season. Despite all of that, and with just two weeks to go before Christmas Europe’s only sub-tropical winter sunshine destination is doing all it can to interpret and comply with restrictions, while trying to salvage the situation and a year that has decimated the tourism driven economy of the entire region.
It is worth also noting at this juncture that the completely separate migration crisis, that has also occurred this year, has played no part whatsoever in the woes of the tourism industry, it is in fact COVID-19 that has largely been responsible for both scenarios, if not the driving force. Even in 2006, the worst year on record for irregular migration, when nearly 32,000 migrants arrived on these islands (12,000 more than this year), the archipelago was able to cope with a record breaking 10 million+ tourist arrivals, and numbers were not adversely affected in the years that followed. The primary culprit for our failing to recover bookings this winter has been exclusively based in the failure to agree safe and affordable testing protocols for holidaymakers and confusion over which administrations announcements must be complied with, whether regional, national or EU.
The Canary Islands have been urgently waiting for a response from Spain’s Ministry of Health regarding the acceptance of antigen tests for travellers, as well as PCR tests, aimed at international holidaymakers arriving to the archipelago. From Thursday, based on a decree announced last week and published this Wednesday in the official regional gazette (BOC), foreign tourists will be allowed to show either type of test result as evidence that they are not infected with Covid-19, stepping outside of, and beyond, what is detailed in the existing law for entry to any Spanish territory from a high risk country.
Spain stipulated that as of November 23rd of this year that only PCR test results would be valid, as established by state regulations, but now the Canary Islands Government, which already had a regional tourism law in place, from November 14, accepting either PCR or the cheaper rapid antigen detection tests for entry to tourist accommodations, have taken the view that under existing regional powers, they can and will extend what type of tests for travellers are acceptable also. The Regional Government are doing everything they can to try to salvage the winter tourist season, something that is seen as impossible if potential visitors are forced to pay up to €150 per person for a PCR test, even as the pandemic continues to rage. An English or German family of four under current rules would have to pay around €600 extra to travel here while their countries remain on the High Risk list, maintained by the ECDC from which Spain then modifies its own list.
The regional government gave notice to the Spanish Health Minister, Salvador Illa, last week regarding their finalising of a regional decree law to also validate the antigen tests. The Canary Islands and President Torres himself have been asking the Cabinet of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez for weeks to exempt the Canary Islands from these state-wide regulations, to take account of the excellent epidemiological situation in the Archipelago, which has remained as the best in Spain and all Europe, as well as building evidence that whether tourists present either a PCR or an antigen test result upon arrival in itself is unlikely to adversely affect the islands, but could be vital for our economic survival. The regional government has been echoing demands of the tourism employers, who have urgently sought the avoidance of a definitive closure for hundreds of companies and the dismissal of thousands of workers, based on blanket restrictions across Spain that do not reflect the reality here on The Canary Islands.
Though the United Kingdom and Germany have been willing to include the islands, if not all of Spain, on their lists of safe territories for travel, tourists are being required to submit a PCR test result and this has meant a reluctance to book from the two biggest source markets for Canary Islands tourism. Antigen tests are not only cheaper and give results much faster, they also have the backing of community authorities, including the European Commission, and are endorsed by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which means definitive support for the Canary Islands Autonomous Community in its discussions with the State. However, Spain’s Ministry of Health has still not agreed to exempt the Archipelago from requiring the PCR – Minister Illa did not respond yesterday to questions regarding whether or not he was aware of the imminent publication of the regional decree and about its position on the matter – however President Torres and the regional executive have taken the view that, under existing State of Emergency powers, the Canary Islands Autonomous Government is well within its remit to go a step further and validate the antigen tests for travellers on their own initiative. It still remains to be seen how Spain’s central government will respond.
To make this work, in a legal sense, the president’s decree has had to establish what is called a “perimeter closure” for the Autonomous Community and regulate, in a complimentary way, requirements that in terms of public health must be met upon entering the islands. Specifically the Canary Islands region have taken into account that President Torres, along with the other 16 regional leaders across Spain, are directly instructed in the current law regulating the state of emergency, to act as the competent authority in their respective territories. Therefore, by explicit delegation of powers from the central government they are empowered to decide and legislate regulations in this regard. These devolved powers, for example, included the right to decide whether or not to establish the night-time curfews imposed across much of Spain in the last couple of months, something which the Canary Islands did not put into practice, due to the great success achieved so far in controlling infections. It was not until last week, that the Canary Islands announced that there would be some stricter limitations to gatherings and decided to include some very limited restrictions on night time movement over the holiday period. Regional presidents therefore, goes the argument, have a certain range of action with which they can modulate particular measures stipulated by the State. However it is worth noting that this range of action does not include regulations regarding the crossing of territorial borders, which is an exclusive matter for the Spanish State.
Canary Islands regulates the sanitary control of international travellers through antigen tests
“For access to the archipelago from abroad, PCR (RT-PCR) and rapid antigen detection tests are to be admitted as diagnostic tests for active SARS-COV-2 infection according to their corresponding standardisation. The decree, which establishes the “perimeter closure of the Autonomous Community”, does not make it impossible for travellers to access the region, but rather regulates secure entry using systems that are accessible and affordable.
This decree is based on the powers derived from the State of Emergency – whose delegated competent authority is the regional president -; it is based in the fact that the Canary Islands are an Ultraperipheral Region (RUP) within the European Union; the Statute of Autonomy; indications from the Public Health Department and microbiology technicians; and accumulated experience with the tourism law decree that established the obligation to present an antigen test certificate or PCR with a negative result in regulated accommodation in the Canary Islands.
In this sense, the pioneering system promoted by the Government of the Canary Islands has proven to be reliable, since over the last five weeks, when around 250,000 travellers have arrived on the islands, very few tourists have tested positive.
The Government of the Canary Islands is maintaining negotiations within the framework of an open understanding with Spain’s Ministry of Health to harmonise the regional standard with the national one.
In addition, progress is being made in the regulations that will establish the controls on national travellers (from within Spain) – in agreement with the Government of the Balearic Islands, – as well as of Canarian residents in peninsular territory who plan to return to the Canary Islands, especially for Christmas.”
So the entirety of this new decree published yesterday rests on the idea that it does not violate any State competence; the decree is based on the understanding that it is the Spanish State itself, having delegated power to the regional presidents, that has made it possible for this region to decide to validate antigen tests as well as the PCR requirement stipulated by the State.
#Canarias regula el control sanitario de viajeros internacionales por medio de test de antígenos
El Ejecutivo apela a su condición de autoridad competente delegada, de región ultraperiférica, al Estatuto de Autonomía y a la experiencia acumulada durante 5 semanas con esa fórmula
— Presidencia GobCan (@PresiCan) December 9, 2020
Ángel Víctor Torres and his cabinet argue that the external border regime includes “the control of compliance with the rules of access” to the territory, and that this is determined by the European Regulations, but point out that “it does not include the establishment of public health access requirements, but their mere verification”, and so the Canarian president has used this nuance to dictate regulations in regard to how compliance is to be verified, without de facto meddling in the regulation of external borders. The Canary Islands Executive, therefore, has moved forward with the interpretation that the central government’s border regime established in the State of Emergency decree covers “compliance” with public health standards but not the “establishment” of specific public health standards. And therein lies the slight of hand:
Under this premise, the Canary Islands regional government restricts entry to international sea or air passengers who do not undergo health control upon arrival. Control that includes a responsible declaration, so that health authorities know, for example, where you are going to stay; taking your temperature; and a diagnostic test that proves you are free of coronavirus. You can present the result of a test carried out within the 72 hours prior to your arrival or have it done at the same airport or at the sea port. And both the PCR and those rapid antigen detection tests, that are duly approved, will be valid. There are exceptions included for those returning home, those who coming for work reasons, such as journalists, and those who travel for any other reason of force majeure, who will not necessarily be subject to the same obligation to be tested. Similarly tourists booked to stay in a hotel, apartment or similar, must, under the Canary Islands regional law in force since November 14, prove upon arrival at the accommodation that they have successfully passed a coronavirus test, meaning that in their case it should be enough when travelling to make a responsible declaration that they plan to leave the airport to head straight for the hotel, where their results are to be verified. Furthermore, there are those tourists who have contracted their tests already with their tour operator, meaning the requirement to have had the test has already been verified upon arrival, and can be confirmed.
Strictly speaking, in the narrowest sense, this finely balanced legal framework, which will be in force until at least January 10, replicates, line by line, most of the existing Spanish state regulations, but provides extra detail on the regional compliance with implementing a control regime for tests for travellers and foreign tourists who enter with an antigen test, and does not seek to only limit compliance to those who have had a PCR result (the control regime for national travellers, within Spain, remains a matter for separate debate).
Of course, it is still the Spanish State that must “comply” with these regional regulations, according to this interpretation by the Regional Executive, and so the decree, published last night, specifically calls for the “collaboration” of the Security Forces and other Institutional Bodies and for Foreign Health Service administrations, who look to Madrid, to comply with the new regional decree.
One last point to note is that to date no-one yet who has arrived onto the islands, without the PCR, has been fined. The de facto preference has been to conduct an antigen test at the airport, allowing the traveller to continue on their way with their test result in hand. Though if Spain wanted to it could much more stringently enforce the existing tests for travellers regulations, with fines of up to €6,000 envisioned in the original legislation. Though those few travellers who have been arriving have mostly tended to comply with the requirement to carry their test results with them throughout their journey, many say that there has been little or no control, enforcement or even verification that they have them with them. Nevertheless it remains the law of the land that all arrivals into Spain from a High Risk territory must be able to present, on demand, a test result proving they are not suffering from COVID-19. Time will tell if any changes are made to that state of affairs.
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Gran Canaria demands that Spain accepts antigen tests as well as PCR results
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The President of the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, Antonio Morales, has called on the Spanish state government to immediately authorise the use of antigen tests for travellers instead of the more expensive PCR tests to save the winter tourist season in the Canary Islands.
The the island government supports the demands of the tourism sector to reactivate the main economic activity of the island, repeating that the antigen tests allow detection of the virus with a level of reliability sufficient to receive tourists in safety and thereby favors socioeconomic reactivation.
The mandatory requirement for PCR tests for anyone travelling from a high risk area is preventing in practice tourists from coming due to the high price, which can range between 150 and 200 euros, although some UK airports have subsidised the cost, however in some countries they are not freely accessible at all, as they are reserved for hospital use or for those identifiably at risk.
The Cabildo, in their considered opinion, believes that the Government of Spain has no reason not to authorise this type of test and therefore demands that it complies with the request from both the hotel businesses and the Government of the Canary Islands.
The positive evolution of the pandemic in the Canary Islands archipelago has allowed the islands to be the only open tourist destination in Europe, which represents an opportunity for tourism activity in the archipelago and for the European tourism sector that is being slowed down by this current requirement for entry to Spain.
The island president warned that if airlines and tour operators do not have bookings for the Canary Islands between now and March, there is a high risk of many dealing with bankruptcy that could permanently damage connectivity with the islands.