COVID-19 Camino updates 25th February Anti-vaccination protests in Santiago last weekend remained peaceful, to the relief of local residents. Infection rates and hospitalisations continue to fall. However the vaccine rollout remains extremely slow. Around 4% of the national population have received their 1st doses. Movement in and out of Santiago is still prohibited. However, should cases continue to drop, there is the possibility of freeing up movement between neighbouring municipalities as long as they are at the same level of restrictions. Due to the closure, there are no pilgrims arriving into Santiago. The possibility of a Spring Camino is looking unlikely at this stage. 19th February New restrictions for Galicia came into force on the 17th and will remain in place until 3rd March. Businesses are now allowed to reopen at their normal hours but capacity is limited to 50%. Restaurants and bars remain closed except for takeaway. Meeting with anyone outside your own household is still prohibited. There are still perimeter closures between municipalities. However, universities will reopen from 1st March and schools are open as usual This is not the same everywhere in Spain - each of the 17 autonomous communities have their own restrictions in place. But most have some variation of regional or municipal closure. The rollout of vaccinations in Spain remains very slow. There is a planned anti-vaccination protest to take place in Santiago this weekend, as well as a counter protest. Our best wishes to our friends there. 12th February Spain seem to be over the crest of their most recent COVID wave. For the moment, the restrictions on movement and social gatherings remain in place. But there is now a hope that they will start being lifted soon. The Pilgrim Office in Santiago remains open, but with virtually no pilgrims for some weeks due to the perimeter lockdown in the city. 5th February Restrictions are now in place for anyone moving between consellos (townships) in Galicia. That is, if a resident of Santiago were to leave the city, they would be liable for a heavy fine. Likewise, for anyone entering the city from outside. Therefore, there are no pilgrims arriving at present. This will remain the case until at least the 17th February, when rules will be reviewed once more. However, it's been revealed that during January 2021, 60 pilgrims got their Compostelas. 27 of these were Spanish, but some were German, Portuguese, Dutch, French and others. There was even a pilgrim from Korea, Brasil and two from the United States! We know that the starting points of these 60 pilgrims varied greatly from the common 100km points like Sarria, Tui, Ferrol, Vigo and Valenca do Minho, to Seville, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and Germany. Unlike the usually fairly even gender split, two thirds of these pilgrims were male. The Xunta de Galicia's department for the Holy Year(s) Programme, Xacobeo 21, have released a report outlining plans for two mobile apps they plan to launch in order to support pilgrims through COVID, when they are allowed to return to the Camino. This is part of their "Camino Seguro" (Safe Camino) programme to promote COVID-safe pilgrimage in Galicia. Radar COVID will be an app to advise you, anonymously, if you've come into contact with someone infected with COVID in the last 14 days. PassCOVID will be an accompanying app to Radar, where you'll also be able to check the up-to-date local restrictions. With Radar, it will also communicate to others if you've had a positive COVID diagnosis. 28th January A small handful of pilgrims have still been walking into Santiago, despite the local restrictions prohibiting this. From yesterday (Wednesday 27th January), stricter rules on movement in and out of Galicia are being enforced. Locals are now not able to move between consellos (townships). The 6pm curfew on non-essential businesses has resulted in the closure of many restaurants and hostels. The number of infections, hospital admissions and deaths is now worse than in the first wave of the virus in March 2020. Currently, about 2% of the Spanish population have received a COVID vaccination. Therefore, it is not looking promising that pilgrims will be able to return by Spring. 22nd January The Pilgrim Office has unveiled their special commemorative Holy Year Credencial. This will be available from the CSJ in the coming weeks. Santiago and Galicia remain in a state of lockdown. Very few, if any, pilgrims are arriving each day. Currently there is a low supply of vaccines available in Spain. At the time of writing, official estimations indicated that people over the age of 80 would not receive their vaccinations until March. By this time frame, pilgrims with plans to return to the Camino in Spring are being cautioned that this may be problematic and that they should push back their plans further if they can. 15th January Cases and deaths from COVID-19 are soaring in Spain, as was anticipated after the busy holiday season. Many Spaniards are being told to go into voluntary lockdown, working from home as much as possible and only leaving their houses if absolutely essential. Still, there are one or two pilgrims arriving at the Pilgrim Office each day. These are most likely local people, who have stayed in their own homes and done the walk over separate days. In the whole of December, just 99 pilgrims were counted at the Pilgrim Office. Half of these were Spaniards. The most popular starting point was Porto (21 pilgrims), followed by La Gudina on the Via de la Plata, close to the Galician border (12 pilgrims), followed by Sarria (10 pilgrims). 1 pilgrim had started in St Jean, 1 in Vézelay and 1 in Belgium. For comparison, in December 2019, a total of 2,710 were counted. The widespread economic effects of the pandemic are beginning to manifest, with marked increases in household bills for electricity, gas and broadband. 7th January The Camino remains in a state of semi-hibernation during these winter months when restrictions on movement remain tight. There were relaxations over New Year and Epiphany (Día de los Reyes Magos) and further announcements are expected in the coming days with the rules on travel in each region. For a breakdown of the situation in each autonomous community, see this article in El País newspaper online. However, for UK residents and nationals, travel abroad remains illegal except for essential purposes. For up-to-date and country-specific Government travel advice, see the following pages: Spain travel advice - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) France travel advice - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) Portugal travel advice - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) 18th December The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 has jumped for the first time in weeks, after a relaxation of restrictions. Many regions will see a tightening of regulations for residents and businesses, with movement between provinces made more difficult. Nonetheless, it is anticipated that many Spaniards will travel to be with their families over the Christmas period, likely triggering a post-Christmas wave of infections and implementation of further restrictions. Santiago City Council are going ahead with their plans for Christmas services in the churches of San Francisco and Santa María Salomé. From the 30th December onwards, the Cathedral will reopen for masses and processions to the Cathedral's Holy Door, which will open on New Years Eve for Holy Year. 11th December There are now almost no pilgrims arriving at Santiago Pilgrim Office. 586 pilgrims were counted there in November, compared to 8,274 for November 2019. Spanish, French and Italian accounted for more than last month's total. There were just 25 UK pilgrims counted. 70% of those counted last month had followed the Camino Francés. Interestingly the most common starting places for those arriving in November were Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Le Puy, Pamplona and Roncesvalles. With the rate of confirmed cases of Covid-19 at its lowest level since August, restrictions are easing slightly, depending on the region. More services are allowed to open, and movement between regions is easier. The authorities are concerned for the coming holiday period, when millions of Spaniards are expected to travel and mix households to be with their families. The Spanish Tourism website is updating this page with advice for incoming passengers. Once the terms of a deal, or no deal, are confirmed for Brexit, the CSJ will put together a guideline for pilgrims to help understand the new requirements for travelling and insurance. 3rd December From this Friday, restrictions will begin to ease in Spain. Bars and restaurants will be able to open again and regions will start to re-open their borders. Very few pilgrims are collecting Compostelas from Santiago now, just a handful a day. Most of those who are finishing now have been walking for months and started back in France or beyond. 12th November The word from Santiago is that there is now a "perimetral confinement", meaning non-essential travel in and out of the area is prohibited, with an exception for pilgrims who started their Camino before 30th October. They are allowed to enter Santiago, get a Compostela but are not able to visit Finisterre or Muxía - they are told to travel home. The nightly curfew from 11pm to 6am continues, as does the restriction on bars, cafes and restaurants to offer takeaway or home delivery services. Sybille Yates continues to update her site on the situation in Santiago. She writes "Whilst the Camino isn’t officially closed, the travel restrictions and insecure accommodation situation make a pilgrimage very difficult, if not impossible, at these times." See the rest of her updates here. 29th October A state of emergency has been declared across Spain. This means that there is a nationwide curfew from 11pm-6am, although individual autonomous regions can move the curfew by plus or minus an hour if the local government choose. They also have the power to tighten their own local restrictions, including closing their own borders. Aragón and Asturias are two of the regions who have closed their regional borders. This lockdown has been confirmed for the next fortnight, but if the situation does not improve in the near future, there is a plan to extend the state of emergency until May 2021! In Santiago, people cannot meet with anyone outside of their own household. And restaurants, cafes and bars can only serve outside. 22nd October More areas on the Camino have now gone into lockdown. This means that non-essential travel through these areas is restricted. This includes: Navarra, Burgos, Salamanca and Ourense (in addition to León and Madrid). Depending on the locality, pilgrims may or may not be allowed to walk or cycle through, without stopping. Some places like León are offering a free shuttle bus from Mansilla de la Mulas to Virgen del Camino. For a full summary, visit the website of Egeria House run by Sybille Yates. 15th October Santiago has now moved into the level 3 of the Spanish Coronavirus area alert system. Therefore, further restrictions will be put in place for the city, though a local lockdown is looking very unlikely. These restrictions are yet to be finalised and announced. The Spanish Federation of Associations of St James has issued a notice of reassurance to other pilgrim associations around the world, saying their new Digital Credencial which will be introduced for the Holy Year will not change the way that paper credenciales currently work. Indeed, the current system of collecting stamps in pilgrim passports will continue as it always has done. The digital version will be a new feature for those who want to use it, with the timely benefit of decreased potential for spreading the virus and greater tracking capability for pilgrims. 8th October This week it was announced that Madrid, León and Palencia would be going into full lockdown because of an uptick in confirmed cases. The Spanish Government have now stipulated that if any of the following statements is true for a given area, it will also go into lockdown for 14 days: There are more than 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants The positivity rate of Covid tests is more than 10% The occupancy of emergency rooms is higher than 35% The statistics for September have been released by the Pilgrim Office in Santiago. A total of 10,441 were counted, far less than the 19,812 of August. About 70% of these were Spanish, with the rest predominantly from Europe, including 136 Brits! 89% were on foot, although there were over 1,000 cyclists, 13 horseback riders and 3 wheelchair users. About a quarter of the total number had started in Sarria. Tui, Porto, St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Ferrol and Oviedo were the next most popular start points. More than half of the total had travelled the Camino Francés, and about a fifth on the Camino Portugués. The rest came via the Norte, Primitivo, Inglés and others. You can see more figures on the Pilgrim Office website. 1st October A new Digital Credencial is being launched for Holy Year (2021), which pilgrims will be able to download via an app on their smartphones. Pilgrims will be able to record their route just as they would in a paper credencial, but instead of collecting stamps, they can scan QR codes which will be stored on the app. The tool has been developed by Santiago Cathedral and the Galicia Tourist Board to help manage the process of awarding large numbers of Compostela certificates more easily, reducing queue times at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago. Camino establishments with pilgrim stamps will be able to digitise their chosen image through the project's new website, which will then appear in the pilgrim's app once they scan. The project was developed before the pandemic, in anticipation of the surge in pilgrim numbers expected in Holy Year. But the new scheme will also reduce the amount of physical contact involved in obtaining a pilgrim stamp - which will help reduce the spread of the virus. The new Digital Credencial is not mandatory - pilgrims will still be able to carry paper credenciales and collect physical stamps should they not wish to participate. 17th September We’re making a couple of changes to our regular Zoom meetings! From the week commencing 21st September: our Virtual Albergues will move to Wednesdays at 5:00pmBST. our Thursday Zoom Coffee Mornings will begin at 10:30amBST. The local government of La Rioja has announced that only people that live together can be in the same room or dormitory, and that albergues are reduced to a maximum 40% capacity, meaning even fewer beds available. We continue to receive updates from pilgrims on the Camino at the moment, on a variety of routes. Our new guide to the St James Way is now available here from our online shop. We are looking forward to our online lecture from Dr Andrew Breeze, of the University of Navarre on the subject of Welsh Pilgrims: Past and Present. Read more here! If you missed the Festival of Christian Pilgrimage that took place on Monday 14th September, you can catch the whole thing on YouTube here. If you want to hear our new Patron, Archbishop Stephen Cottrell, you can skip to his talk at 1:17! 10th September The statistics from Santiago Pilgrim Office have been released - 19,812 Compostela certificates were issued in August. Over 15,000 of these pilgrims were Spanish. Otherwise, predominantly Italian, Portuguese, German and French. 134 were British! Almost 18,000 were walkers, with around 1,800 cyclists, 11 horse riders, 11 sailors and 4 wheelchair users. The top starting points were Sarria (5,701), Tui (1690), Ferrol (1945), St Jean Pied de Port (832) and Porto (830). Around 53% of these pilgrims were following the Camino Francés. For the full breakdown, visit https://oficinadelperegrino.com/estadisticas2/ Numbers of cases remain high across Spain, similar to numbers in March earlier this year and local restrictions are tightening. Although another national lockdown is looking unlikely. It is looking increasingly probable that Portugal will soon be added to the "essential travel only" list. In that event, we remind pilgrims of the plethora of pilgrim routes in the UK to whet the appetite! You can see our Caminos in the UK page for more info, and visit the website of the British Pilgrimage Trust who have a fantastic directory of possible pilgrim routes you can do from home! Our newly updated version of the St James Way will be available from our online shop on Friday 11th September, for those wanting to walk all or part of the way from Reading to Southampton. 4th September With Spain and France still on the "essential travel only" list, we are steering pilgrims' attention firstly towards local pilgrimage (see post below) and also Portugal - for as long as it stays off the list! We have heard from pilgrims out on the Caminho that there is enough accommodation available and that most of them can be booked through Booking.com . There are cheap flights to Lisbon and Porto at the moment. Some airlines may ask you to fill in a contact form before you arrive (as best you can if you're a travelling pilgrim). These appear to be enforced to different degrees depending on the airline! Masks are required in all establishments without fail. The CSJ stocks a guidebook to the route from Lisbon to Porto, including the detour to Fátima - which remains open. As long as it remains safe to travel to Portugal, this would be a great alternative for budding pilgrims! 27th August The number of diagnosed cases of Covid-19 in Spain is now comparable to that of late March earlier this year, with more than 19,000 new confirmed instances on August 24th alone. However, the number of deaths remains relatively low, with just 25 recorded for today. If you are planning your Camino in Spain or France soon, please do bear in mind that the UK government's official advice is not to travel to either country unless for essential purposes. If you choose to go still, you must do everything you can to keep yourself and those around you safe. As long as they remain on the "essential-only" list, there will be severe consequences on your travel insurance, as well as possibly your travel itinerary. Both will need to be consulted carefully. That said, if you're desperate to scratch that itch, remember there are other options: Pilgrimage in the UK! There is so much beautiful walking and cycling to be found in this country. You can see our Caminos in the UK page for more info, and visit the website of the British Pilgrimage Trust who have a fantastic directory of possible pilgrim routes you can do from home! Portugal, which is not currently on the "essential-only" list of countries, has some beautiful and historic pilgrim routes which are well signposted and catered for. The route from Porto is the second most popular Camino route after the Camino Francés! You can read more about the Camino Portugués here. Some notes from a UK peregrina currently on the Camino Francés: In Galicia it is now necessary to fill in entry forms - downloaded online. You have 24 hours after crossing into Galicia from another province (or abroad) to do this. Albergues in: Galicia - some municipals are open, such as at O Cebreiro. We have heard that none are open on the Finisterre loop. Castilla y León - Some of the parochial albergues are open, such as San Nicolas de Flue in Ponferrada. Many churches are closed. 6th August The main news to report this week is that Pilgrim Office statistics for July have now been uploaded to their website - www.oficinadelperegrino.com If you scroll the drop down menus to 2020 and "julio" you can see the full breakdown. Some interesting things we noted: More than 9,700 pilgrims were counted for the month. More than 80% were Spanish, predominantly coming from Andalucía, Madrid and the Comunidad Valenciana. Other top nationalities included German, Italian and Portuguese, with 63 pilgrims hailing from the UK. 92% arrived on foot, but there were 736 by bike, 9 on horseback and 2 in a wheelchair! Around a third started in Sarria, with the next most popular start points being Tui, Ferrol, Oviedo and Porto. Additionally, we did receive word from the Office for Citizen Information and Care in Madrid that the Health Certificate for travellers into Spain is only required if you have arrived by air or by sea. We will update this post if we hear any updates on this. 30th July This week we heard from recently returned pilgrim, Richard Lendon, who spoke about his experience walking from Pamplona to Santiago and on to Porto. Overall he had a positive experience. The locals he met were welcoming and hospitable as ever. And he always found accommodation, though sometimes had to walk further than he anticipated to find it. On one occasion, he said, he had to walk 20km without a single shop, café or hostel open. Where there was available accommodation, there were often only a couple of pilgrims to a dormitory. The number of pilgrims was very low all the way along the Camino Francés, with slightly more on the Camino Portugués. All locals and pilgrims wore masks as standard, and in Galicia there are now fines in force for not wearing them. Alcoholic hand wash was always readily available. Richard is now in self-isolation, as mandated by the UK government for travellers from Spain. The FCO is now advising against all but essential travel to Spain and its islands, which will have significant insurance implications. Some airlines, including Jet2, have cancelled their flights to Spain. - - 25th July Announcement that people returning to the UK from Spain will be required to self isolate for 14 days: see BBC announcement here. - - 23rd July A great website to look at for up-to-date information on Coronavirus outbreaks in Spain is http://egeria.house/camino-corona-updates/ It's run by CSJ member in Santiago, Sybille Yates. If you are walking/planning to walk a Camino, please keep an eye on this page and always adhere to official travel advice from the respective authorities. There are several ways to celebrate St James Feast Day on 25th July from your home! There is the online St James Day mass from Fr Denis of the Redemptorist order in Hampshire, available here. There is the live streaming of the St James Day service from St James Spanish Place, London, available here. And you can even watch the fiestas happening in Spain. Click here to see live streams of small fireworks displays in 8 different locations across Spain. Spain – borders are open, no quarantine requirements from UK/EU. No travel restrictions in place; only “no travel” advice so far. Albergues are opening on Camino Frances, safety measures largely in place. Xunta albergues - some seem to be open and word is that all will gradually open until September. Reservations for albergues are on the increase HAPPY ST JAMES DAY! See the CSJ Facebook Page for announcements about UK celebrations Facebook pages/groups to follow: CSJ-UK Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/CSJUK Camino Pilgrim Discussion Group: www.facebook.com/groups/confraternitysaintjames/ CSJ Members Group: www.facebook.com/groups/CSJ.UK/ 16th July Pilgrims are on the camino but numbers are low and it seems that many of the ones arriving in Santiago are coming by bicycle. Some albergues are open and most are following strict guidelines but still want to feel welcoming. Duvets are generally not supplied, and the availability of sheets and blankets vary from place to place - best to carry a sleeping bag with you. Also, not all albergues are serving meals but those who are will be following social distancing and disinfecting procedures. Condiments will be in sachets rather than communal containers (and you might want to bring your own). Some require you to provide your own cutlery. There is good advice here: https://elmirondesoria.es/nacional/sociedad/recomendaciones-para-retomar-la-actividad-en-camino-de-santiago Masks are required in Spain, though specific rules might vary from place to place. These should be surgical grade masks rather than homemade cotton masks. Be careful about arriving in an overheated state as you will most likely have your temperature recorded when you arrive at your albergue. You might want to sit in the shade with a cool drink before going in! 9th July If traveling into Spain, you must have obtained a health certificate, which you can do via spth.gob.es and keep a copy either on your smart phone or printed out. There has been a spike of reported cases of Covid-19 in Lugo province. However, it seems to have been contained, with no hospitalisations. All 168 people infected are required to self-isolate for one week. Plastic sacks are being made available by refuges in which to place rucksacks to help with sanitation in the pilgrim hostels. Masks are mandatory in all situations where a social distance of 1.5m is not possible.