The protocols anti COVID- 19 along the Way of Saint James

Pilgrims who want to walk the Camino de Santiago this year have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and by the measures taken by the Spanish government to try to limit the spread of this infectious disease. The protection of both pilgrims and staff working along the Xacobean routes, is of primary importance throughout Spain and in particular in Galicia, where most of the routes are located. In this post we will see what awaits us on the Camino de Santiago at the moment, what protocols need to be followed and how other countries in the European Union are behaving.

The COVID-19 has not stopped, it is still going on, and unfortunately it seems that we will have to get used to live with it for longer than we would like. In any case, the common effort of the Spanish Government and each autonomous community is more than ever present to face up to new outbreaks and to stop the spread of the virus.

In Galiwonders, we have walked the Way of St. James this summer and therefore we can confirm that the measures taken in Galicia make the Jacobean routes a safe alternative despite of the situation.

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What Protocols Anti-covid are taken on the Camino de Santiago?

Among the most recent measures established by the Spanish Government, is the possibility for each community to request the “State of Emergency” with the support of the central government. This will allow each region to apply stricter measures in consequence of a worsening of the pandemic in their territories.

Furthermore, in his appearance on 25 August, President Pedro Sanchez stressed the importance of downloading the RADAR COVID application to facilitate the tracking of cases and thus lower the infection curve.

This app, which is completely anonymous, allows data to be crossed without using the GPS of those mobiles that downloaded it. In this way, users can be informed in the event of exposure to people who have tested positive for the virus. They will be inform in case they were in contact with in the previous 14 days, at a distance of less than 2 metres and for more than 15 minutes.

This application, created by the Spanish government, is very similar to that of other European Union countries such as France, Germany and Italy, and allows the manual tracking process to be automated, trying to minimize the risk due to exposures to people with the COVID19.

 

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This measure, like others which have already been in place for a few months, is one of the ways in which the Ministry of Health is trying to gain greater control over this pandemic which is changing our lives so much. In his opening speech at the press conference on 24 August, the Director General of the WHO stated

If we all respect physical distance, wash our hands often, wear masks and keep each other informed, we can all break the chains of transmission.

These measures are precisely the key points of the guide prepared by the Spanish Institute for Tourism Quality (ICTE) for hostels and hotels to reduce the risks related to the COVID.

At the moment, on the Camino de Santiago, and particularly in Galicia, these are the indications to try to maintain the establishments as safe as possible for both pilgrims and workers. Let’s read what protocols we should follow in each case.

What to do if you have symptoms?

In the unfortunate event that you have the following symptoms: fever, dry cough, tiredness, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, feeling of pressure on the chest, you should immediately isolate yourself and seek medical attention. Follow your doctor’s instructions and try to stay home unless your doctor tells you to do otherwise.

In the event of a serious situation, call 112 if you are in Spain or the autonomous community itself. In Galicia you can call the number: 061. For more information about the COVID-19, see this link.

Notification of origin on arrival in Spain.

To obtain a higher level of control over passengers traveling to Spain from any airport or port outside Spanish territory, it is obligatory to fill in a public health form, online, before starting the journey. This form can be found at this link: https://www.spth.gob.es/.

You can also use the free app SPAIN TRAVEL HEALTH-SpTH. Once the form has been completed, the passenger will be given a QR code, which must be presented on arrival in Spain. Similar measures are followed in other countries such as Italy. On arrival at the destination in many airports, the temperature of the passengers is measured, too.

Notification of origin when arriving in Galicia from certain communities.

The Xunta de Galicia has imposed a register of the arrivals of visitors from other autonomous communities in Spain (considered to be a territory with a high incidence of coronavirus).

This list is drawn up and regularly updated by the Galician Government. At present, the Autonomous Communities affected by these regulations include Madrid, Aragon, Catalonia, Navarre and the Basque Country.

To register you must use the form on this link or you can also call the number 881 002 021.Captura de pantalla 2020 08 27 a las 11.36.56 300x221 min

In addition, the Xunta de Galicia has created a new Sergas portal with updated information on the coronavirus in Galicia.

In other EU countries there are also restrictions for travelers coming from Spain or other countries considered to be at high risk. Different measures are imposed by each country on citizens coming from Spain. However, it is advisable to find out about the particular measures of each EU country before traveling, because in some cases you might have to present a negative PCR test, carried out at most within the 72 hours preceding your trip, or even make a 2-weeks quarantine upon arrival at your destination.

Distance of two meters.

The importance of maintaining social distance is crucial in the transmission of the COVID and the load of the virus by aerosol seems to be much higher than was thought until recently. In order to guarantee this distance between pilgrims, and also with the staff working along the Way, the common areas of hotels and restaurants have been restricted, the receptions almost always have protective screens that are often disinfected. More distance is also left in front of the bar (1.5 metres) for greater protection on both sides.

Hotels and restaurants have a capacity limit by law that allows them to maintain the minimum required distances and also to carry out continuous disinfection on the surfaces used by guests.

The use of masks is obligatory.

While in some countries masks are only obligatory on public transport or in enclosed spaces, in Spain they are always mandatory, even in the open air, as an extreme preventive measure. In Galicia, moreover, even if you are sit in a bar, you must always wear a mask when drinking something. It is allowed to remove it only when consuming drinks and food, with the risk of being fined if this regulation is not followed.

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Use disinfectant gels and wash your hands more often.

This is one of the first measures taken worldwide and remains essential to limit new infections. Every shop, bar, restaurant or any kind of public place, presents at its entrance a bottle of Hydroalcoholic Gel for the disinfection of its customers’ hands. However, we must be very careful with this measure as not all gels have a sufficient alcohol load to protect against the coronavirus. Scientific studies have shown that the gel, to be really effective, must have an alcohol percentage of between 65% and 90%.

However, whenever possible, it is advisable to wash your hands with soap.

 

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Smoking is forbidden. 

Another more recent measure of prevention against the spread of the virus in Galicia, is the prohibition to smoke in the terraces as well as in the street, if there is not a minimum distance of two meters among people. This measure, has been consequently adopted all over Spain.

According to recent scientific studies, there is a greater spread of the virus in people who smoke or who are near smokers, because of the droplets that can be expelled by smoking, and which could contain a higher viral load. In addition, according to a group of public health experts convened by the WHO, smokers are more likely to develop severe symptoms if they have COVID-19, compared to non-smokers, since this disease primarily attacks the lungs.

Do not touch your nose, mouth and eyes.

Even if following all of the above measures, it is also advisable to limit contact with the face as much as possible to prevent potential contagion. This measure is particularly recommended if we are in busy places such as public transport, places with crowds of people, hospitals, etc.

 

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Sneeze into the elbow and cover as much as possible in case of cough.

It is very important to avoid the spread of germs (even if we do not realize it) which can reach a distance of up to 4 0 6 meters, according to a study by the (MIT) Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ventilation is most common in rooms and enclosed spaces.

Ventilation in enclosed spaces to reduce the viral load in the air is a highly advisable measure and is practiced in all the establishments along the Way of Saint Jaimes among other preventive measures against the virus. Hotels, restaurants, bars, shops and hostels increased the frequency of ventilation of rooms since they reopened after confinement.

Shifts for breakfast. Buffet not recommended.

Unfortunately this year we will not be able to enjoy the breakfasts we were used to in the hotels where we stayed. The free buffet is not advisable for safety reasons due to the risk of contagion. In some hotels you have to take turns to respect the maximum capacity limit and the waiters bring each client their breakfast, to avoid crowds.

 

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Nightlife is closed.

In Galicia, the clubs and bars have closed down completely and restaurants must close at one o’clock in the morning. Moreover, events like “el botellón” are forbidden. A risk assessment will also be carried out for each event or cultural event that was scheduled.

Tables with a maximum capacity of 10 people.

Restaurants have a maximum limit of 10 people at each table and these must be at least 1.5 meters away from the others.

 

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Is it possible to do the Camino in 2020?

Yes! At Galiwonders we did the French Way from Sarria at the end of July and although it was very different compared to other years, it was as always, or even more, an extraordinary experience. The possibility of doing the Camino in the middle of the nature after the confinement, was a real gift. Being able to meet people from all over Spain (and even some foreigners) and share the emotions of doing the Camino after this world pandemic was the best way to disconnect a little from the situation.

However there are far fewer people, many hotels and shops are closed and all pilgrims and workers have to respect the rules described above. But yes, the Way can be done and at Galiwonders we are very careful to make this trip as safe as possible, hiring only services that respect the prevention and protection measures against the virus.

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For example, the transporters who transfer the suitcases always use masks and disinfectant gels, they disinfect the vehicles frequently and when collecting the suitcases from the hotels, which are in clean and frequently disinfected spaces, they follow the sanitary prevention measures.

Another important factor, if you travel with Galiwonders, is that all the services are already booked and you will not have to pay anything in the establishments (except for the extra services you may want when you are already en route and which you will have to pay for on the spot). However, as a further preventive measure, it will almost always be possible to pay by card and find information online (for example through QR codes to consult the menu in restaurants) and thus limit physical contact.

 

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In addition, we only work with accommodation with its own room and private bathroom. For this reason, there is less risk of meet other pilgrims in closed spaces, as in the case of hostels (in the bathrooms, bedrooms or other common areas). In any case, whatever type of establishment you decide to spend the night in, you will see that the measures developed by the ICTE are applied along the Way of St James. From the welcome to the check out, the professionals will limit any physical contact to the minimum and will follow the health protocols to prevent contagion.

As soon as you arrive in Santiago de Compostela, the excitement of having arrived will be even stronger than in a normal period. Being able to finish your journey, in spite of the situation, adding the emotional concerns to the physical effort  will reward you. To return home with a souvenir of this challenge, you can obtain your Compostela from the Pilgrim’s Office, which has also developed a computer system to avoid queues and crowds. Discover everything you need to know about the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago and come back with the best of the souvenirs.

How is Portugal doing?

Our Portuguese neighbours have taken very similar measures to ours in their fight against COVID19 and to ensure the protection of their population. The use of masks is compulsory in transport and public services, shops and supermarkets, in closed spaces and places with crowds. The minimum distance of two meters, the maximum capacity in premises and in public places also applies.Anti-COVID protocols along the Way

 

On the island of Madeira the restrictions are somewhat stricter, for example, the mask is obligatory in all public premises, even open ones, as in Spanish territory and a negative PCR test must be carried out in the 72 hours prior to the trip in order to enter from abroad.

Along the Portuguese Route from Porto, both along the Coastal Way and Inland, there are no limitations on the borders between Portugal and Spain. Pilgrims can cross the border without any problem, as long as they follow the health prevention measures. To fly to Portugal from other European countries you can find all the information here.

On Portuguese territory, travelers who show symptoms of respiratory disease, during or after the journey, should immediately contact the National Health Service by calling 808 24 24 24.

We would like to remind you that the Coronavirus pandemic is following a course that is proving to be almost totally unpredictable. As a result, governments are analyzing the situation on a daily basis and taking measures in line with the evolution of the outbreaks. For this reason, we advise you to keep informed of developments that may directly or indirectly affect citizens and the trips you have already scheduled.

If you prefer to wait until 2021, which will also be the Jacobean Holy Year, to do the Way of Saint James, find out why we advise you to book your route now!

From Galiwonders, we would like to take this opportunity to send you a big hug and hope that the situation improves as soon as possible. If you are interested in a tailor-made itinerary along one of the Xacobean routes, do not hesitate to contact us.

 

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