Spain reopens to vaccinated tourists

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Spain reopens to vaccinated tourists

PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain (AP) -- Spain jump-started its summer tourism season on Monday by welcoming vaccinated visitors from most countries as well a

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PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain (AP) — Spain jump-started its summer tourism season on Monday by welcoming vaccinated visitors from most countries as well as European tourists who can prove they are not infected with coronavirus. It also reopened its ports cruise ships.

The move opened borders for the first tourists from the U.S. and other countries outside of the European Union since those travelers were banned in March last year, when the pandemic hit global travel.

Matthew Eisenberg, a 22-year-old student, excitedly stepped out of Madrid’s airport, ready to enjoy the Spanish capital along with two more American friends. “We came to Spain the first day we could, because we are very excited to travel here,” Eisenberg said, showing a certificate for the two Moderna vaccine jabs he received in February and March.

But Spain is still banning nonessential travelers from Brazil, India and South Africa, where virus variants have been a major source of concern.

Visitors need proof they were fully vaccinated at least 14 days before the trip or that they overcame a Covid-19 infection in the past six months. The same documents will be valid for visitors from the European Union until the bloc fully rolls out its “Digital Green Certificate” as expected on July 1. Spain on Monday joined seven other EU countries already implementing the scheme.

Alfredo González, an official in charge of digital health and innovation at Spain’s Health Ministry, said the certificate is not a passport but a document that eases mobility across Europe. “Without the certificate, travel will be possible, but the entry in every country will be slower and controls such as quarantines could apply,” said González, adding that all airports had established fast-track channels with technology able to confirm the digital certificates issued by other EU countries.

Beginning Monday, non-vaccinated travelers from the EU’s 27 countries could also enter Spain with the negative results of recent coronavirus antigen tests, which are cheaper and faster than PCR tests.

The Spanish government hopes to welcome 14.5 million to 15.5 million visitors between July and September. That’s about 40% of the tourists in the same period of 2019 but twice as many as last summer, when only EU visitors could enter Spain. Tourism is a major industry that in 2019 accounted for over 12% of Spain’s GDP.

In another move to boost tourism, Spanish ports opened to cruise ships on Monday, nearly 15 months after they were banned.

After peaking in late January at nearly 900 new cases per 100,000 residents in 14 days, Spain’s coronavirus contagion indicator has dropped to 115 per 100,000. Still, its descent has slowed down in the past days as new infections spread among unvaccinated groups. Spain has counted over 80,000 Covid-19 deaths in the pandemic.

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