In Spain, Planta Baixa and teamed up for a new data-driven investigation into arrivals at Spanish airports during the pandemic. Planta Baixa is a social and political news TV programme broadcasting on Catalan public television (TV3) since 2019. is a non-profit media outlet that fights disinformation and promotes transparency through fact-checking and data journalism techniques

Shortly after the first lockdown was introduced and in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Spanish government introduced the Spain Travel Health Control Form (SpTH App) as obligatory for all travelers entering Spain since July 1, 2020.

After several persistent requests to the authorities, the DESTINO ESPAÑA (Destination Spain) project team obtained and analyzed 10,739,817 records of passengers (while protecting their anonyity) who entered Spain between July 1, 2020 and June 28, 2021 (the database can be downloaded here). The database the journalists obtained from the authorities contained information such as the country of origin, the destination airport or the reason for the trip, but not other relevant health data that passengers had to share, such as possible symptoms of COVID-19.

The data offered an unprecedented window into travel to Spain during the pandemic – where passengers were coming from and their reasons for visiting during times of reduced mobility in Spain. It also offered a critical look at the efficiency of the airport COVID-19 checks and epidemiological tracking. Selected findings of the investigation include:

* The health control at airports cost 127 million euros of public money in contracts with two private companies: Interserve and Quirón, while the cost of the Spain Travel Health app is still unknown.

* The Ministry of Health didn’t check the accuracy of the data filled in by travellers in the Travel Health Entry Form.

*  There was no track record of falsified COVID-19 passes detected at airports, although one of the outsourced companies had the mandate to do so.

* The Ministry of Health assigned AENA, the public company in charge of airports, to coordinate the control of airports. According to the agreement from July 2020, a monitoring commission was to be created, but it was never set up.

The project’s stories were published on and broadcast on the Planta Baixa programme (all links below).

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