Pilgrim Covid Update: I know many people are planning a late summer or fall Camino. Some who will be traveling from other countries, like the US and Canada. But our situation in Spain, and in Galicia specifically, is rapidly evolving so I thought I would provide an update.
Much like France is doing now, requiring a Covid certificate – proof of negative PCR test in the last 48 hours (tough to do while walking the Camino), or certificate showing the disease has been passed, or the vaccination certificate issued or certified by the EU – Galicia is now requiring these to enter any hotel, nightlife, or restaurant/cafe in areas where contagion is deemed to be at high. Palas de Rei was high last week. This week, Melide and Arzua are in the high category. It changed rapidly. As I eluded to before, Covid infections have steadily been coming our way since the major outbreak in Sarria two weeks ago.
Last weekend, 7 Pilgrims were quarantined in Palas de Rei – with 6 of them having a positive PCR test. The eighth of their group was notified, after flying from Mallorca to join her college friends for a Camino at Sarria, that a close contact on the island was positive. Over two days of walking she became sicker and sicker, and by Palas de Rei she had to be transported to the hospital in Santiago. Her friends are all still quarantined in a hostel in Palas, just down the road from us.
The good news is that the one who was hospitalized is going to be OK. Her friends stuck in Palas are all passing the disease together with no further hospitalizations required, so far. A doctor is attending them from our local health centre on a daily basis, on-site, and food is being brought to them and left outside their doors. The townspeople even donated games and books so they don’t get bored. Because, well, it’s Lugo. So, of course they did. This community never fails to step up. And the cost of their ten day quarantine is being borne by the Xunta de Galicia’s Covid insurance for Pilgrims. This is a program developed by the Ministry of Tourism to kickstart the rebirth of the Camino during the Xacabeo year, and provides assurances to Pilgrims that it is still safe to make the pilgrimage. All medical and housing expenses for quarantine will be taken care of by the Xunta.
Xacobeo 2021-2022: Anti-Covid Insurance in Galicia
To revitalize tourism and the presence of pilgrims in the middle of the Jacobean year, the Xunta de Galicia will launch a “covid insurance” from the second quarter of the year.
This insurance will be applied to those pilgrims who have the bad luck of contracting Covid-19 in Galician territory during their Camino.
Galician Covid insurance will cover all medical, surgical, pharmaceutical and hospital costs. In the event that it is not necessary to go to the hospital, it will cover the unforeseen expenses that arise to those who must keep quarantine by medical prescription, both of the affected person and of their close contacts.
The maximum coverage will be 30 days and the Xunta de Galicia will allocate a total of 1.2 million for this covid insurance.
This past week the Ministers of Tourism met up for all the Spanish regions covering the routes of the various Caminos throughout Spain, including Andalucia. At the meeting, Galicia encouraged them all to adopt similar Pilgrim Insurance programs to provide Pilgrims with the peace of mind, no matter where they choose to start their walk, or where they are from. But, if you notice there are caveats to the Galician Program. In the case of the pilgrims in Palas, the girl from Mallorca who infected her friends would not be covered, since she contracted Covid in Mallorca and brought it with her to Galicia. But her college friends from Madrid, whom she infected between Sarria and Palas de Rei, would be covered. But not to worry, she is on Spanish National Health so for her there is no additional costs and the health care is excellent.
More importantly, for those traveling to Spain for their Caminos this Xacabeo year, please ensure you bring proof of vaccination or an infection certificate. I would recommend taking a photo of this document for backup. If it’s lost, getting another one so far from home, that can be used to access hostels, refugios, or even restaurants in Galicia as the contagion situation evolves rapidly, might become a problem. Jeff’s and mine are on our phones with the QR code, and the photos are accepted everywhere here. So it will save you a big hassle if you do this. In our area we can not go into any eating or drinking establishments (or stay in a hotel) without showing it.
And make sure to purchase good travel insurance. Just in case. If you are planning to come to Spain without being vaccinated – sooo not recommended – you will have had to have a negative PCR test and comply with all the travel restrictions that have been laid out by the Spanish government. But, once you’ve done that, if you are unvaccinated you’ll likely encounter some situations locally in Spain, and be forced to get tested again. You can do this at most farmacias without a prescription, if they haven’t given out their allotment of antigen tests for the town’s population. But the tests have to be done early morning and taken to the farmacia for processing by 10am. The results will be available within 24 hours and will be texted to your phone. While this is pretty quick, when you’re trying to walk a Camino it will not be convenient. So I would recommend getting vaccinated and coming with the full course recorded via an official vaccine certificate. Much, much easier.
Hopefully, by September this fifth wave will have broken as more and more young people are getting vaccinated. Sergas starts the vaccination of the 20-29 age group tomorrow in Santiago, and next week in the rest of Galicia. So by the end of August teenagers will begin getting the jab, too. A safe September Camino sounds just about right.