“It’s very frustrating that the British go and I can’t go anyway”

Spain has opened its doors to travelers from the UK since this week. As happened in the previous de-escalation of the covid-19 pandemic, last summer, the opening has not been the same in both senses. The British, with 70% of their population vaccinated, do not need PCR to come and do not have to go through quarantines. Spain considers it a safe country, as well as the main source of tourists. While, Boris Johnson’s government advises against traveling to one of the destinations that it still classifies as risky (‘amber’, according to its colored traffic light).

Right now, from British soil it is only recommended to come to Spain in case of emergency. On the way back, we must pass 10 days of quarantine and two PCRs. Added to this are the effects of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union (EU) that make it necessary to carry a passport to move between the two countries, because the identity card is no longer enough. This has been one more obstacle because some families are waiting to be able to renew your documentation at the embassy Spanish in London.

“It’s very frustrating that the British go and I can’t go anyway”, laments Sara López, a Zaragoza researcher in Cambridge, who has not come to Aragon since 2019, before the pandemic broke out. Now, with his vaccinated family, he planned to fly in the summer, but has run into traffic jam at the Spanish embassy to renew passports. She has been trying to get a date for months, without success. “As they have such a blockade, they are calling those whose passport expires, but there will be people who will have expired and will not need it to travel,” he explains. He proposes that a more agile solution be sought, such as extending the validity of documents, which has already been done in other countries.

Reinforcement at the embassy in London

The Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs assures that the service has been reinforced, most in demand since the last chapter of ‘Brexit’ became effective in January. Right now they have some 21,600 appointments scheduled to renew passports. The hours have been increased and it is loaned four days a week, morning and afternoon. In some cases, petitions are not admitted because some procedure is missing, such as registration in the consular registry, a kind of “register” in which residents sometimes have not signed up, despite having lived there for several years. This procedure must be fulfilled before proceeding with the renewal of the passport.

For emergency cases there is also the possibility of requesting a “safe passage”. From the consulate they advise not to get the plane tickets before having the documentation because they do not ensure that it will be on time. Sara and her family decided to take a chance and buy them, hoping, like other foreign residents, that things will improve in the summer. “We have taken plane tickets risking ourselves, but it is quite possible that we will not be able to travel”He has assumed, and that they have bought them “as late as possible, in August”, before his son’s return to school. He is aware that the cost of travel is multiplied with PCRs.

“This situation affects us a lot. I have been since May 1, when I started, without seeing my family. And we don’t know when we can get together”

The restrictions are complicated if the distribution of a family by country increases. Pablo Alejandre, from Zaragoza, a resident of the United Kingdom for 14 years, is pending from this month not only the restrictions with Spain but with France, where he has moved for work. His wife and two daughters remain in England until the end of the course in June. “This situation affects us a lot. I have been since May 1, when I started, without seeing my family. And we don’t know when we can get together “, recognize. Not where. Among the “neutral” countries they are considering is Portugal, since it is in a ‘green’ risk zone, an intermediate point if Spain does not go out of the ‘amber’ color between now and next month.

Three PCRs when returning

“However, I hope that everything is solved sometime in June”, want. The measures are being reviewed periodically and on June 21 another period of the English de-escalation will be fulfilled. Then the level of contagion in the countries will be re-evaluated. Spain could improve at the risk stoplight and place itself in the long-awaited ‘green’ that would give travelers free rein.

At the moment, the trip involves a greater duration and cost due to contagion prevention measures. “Quarantines make it difficult for me to go or for my wife and girls to come here to Paris”, acknowledges Pablo.

To fly back to the United Kingdom it is necessary to do a first PCR and when you arrive in England, in addition to the 10 days of quarantine, you have to do two more tests, six days apart, more expensive than normal because they are used to detect virus variants, like the Indian that has spread rapidly through the country, Sara lists. And if you want to leave the quarantine in the middle, you can do another test after five days. He calculates that the price is around 320 euros only in test per person, which is why he affirms that complying with the PCR is “more expensive than plane tickets.” Despite everything, he wants to see the family. “Now that we are vaccinated, the light is beginning to be seen at the end of the tunnel,” he says.

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