We could have named this piece, “All Quiet on the Camino Front” (with apologies to Erich Maria Remarque)
Priscilla White who is active in leading CSJ’s Miraz donative Albergue has recently shared this map of Northern Spain in her periodic info=bulletin to volunteer hospitaleros indicating the borders that currently cannot be cross due to Covid-19 measures still in place in Spain:
Therefore, in a nutshell, if one is unable to enter Galicia from different regions, then for the time being, starting a Camino outside Galicia is still not an option. Also for the time being, all municipal albergues are still closed and few cafés are in comparison to the hustle and bustle associated with the Camino Francès post-Easter.
CSJ’s Miraz Donativo Albergue (On the Camino Norte) remains closed and at the moment as are many other donativo albergues because of the weight of the measures that would need to be taken to make an albergue Covid-safe.
The Xunta have issued comprehensive guidelines on health and safety protocols and the numbers of pilgrims allowed to stay at any one time are restricted to 30% capacity (i.e. between 7 or 8. The Xunta have agreed to insure any pilgrim or hospitalero against the cost of Covid-19 infection that includes transport to hospital, care during the illness and also the cost of isolating in a hotel, up to €15,000 per patient. This is a generous offer and removes some of the worry about the cost of travel insurance against Covid-19.
The main hurdles to re-opening are the severe restrictions in travel and the need to quarantine on return home, together with the high cost of getting a Covid test privately. Added to this is the almost negligible number of pilgrims walking to Santiago – less than 15 per day when normally they would be expecting 1,000.
The vaccination roll-out in Spain is still very patchy and although the authorities are keen to welcome pilgrims back on the Camino, until the majority of Spaniards have received their jabs, it makes it hard to plan for the immediate future.
Given this scenario, it is unlikely that signs of recovery on the Camino will take place before September of this year and – all things being equal – should return to a semblance of normality in 2022.
Not news that we necessarily wish to hear but the Camino has prevailed for centuries in the face of plagues, reformation wars, 2 World Wars and a Civil war and it will again prevail.