Summer Holiday Emergency: EU Urges End to Lockdown to Save Europeans‘ Vacation

Written by | Thursday, May 14th, 2020

The European Union has unveiled its plan to help European citizens salvage their summer vacations and resurrect Europe’s heavily battered tourism industry. Brussels is urging a coordinated reopening of borders closed due to the coronavirus pandemic and wants people to start planning their summer holidays to get economies moving again. Austria, France and Switzerland have already announced they will start relaxing controls as early as this weekend. But while some other EU member states, including Germany, aim to completely end border restrictions by 15 June, some other countries are not convinced. For example, Spain, with the world’s fourth-highest number of infections, plans to keep borders shut until at least July.
As tourism makes up 10% of the EU’s GDP, providing more than 50 million jobs, a $160bn question for the EU is how to reopen safely. Thus, Brussels has proposed a set of recommendations aiming at lifting travel restrictions and border controls throughout the EU. The European Commission wants to start lifting restrictions still in place – which has limited people’s movement, with ‘non-essential travel’ being restricted, as well as imposed quarantine measures, during the COVID-19 outbreak – but has also suggested detailed guidelines to keep travellers and workers safe. While the EU is keen to save what it can of the summer season, Commission Vice-President Margrete Vestager admitted it will “not be a normal summer”. The „abnormal summer“ will include only citizens of countries with similar levels of infections being able to travel more freely, buying tickets and doing check-ins online, having enough capacity in hospitals, as well as testing, surveillance and contact tracing capacities in place for tourism to start again.
Each member state is approaching the end of its coronavirus lockdown and border closures a bit differently. France, for example, has announced it will have arrivals from the Schengen open-border zone, which includes Switzerland, exempt from the quarantine. Italy, under normal circumstances, being the fifth-most visited country in the world, has never technically ordered its borders closed, but the extreme measures put in place at airports to stop the spread of the virus and border closures ordered by its neighbors have pretty much cut it off to international travel. Spain, though also heavily reliant on foreign tourism, has reopened its borders but imposed a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine regulation on anyone who arrives in the country. Portugal, another top tourist destination, has said that the country’s beaches and hotels will be ready to welcome tourists by mid-June. Croatia, which is currently negotiating separate deals with different EU countries, has said German tourists, who frequent Croatia’s many islands in the Adriatic Sea, will be allowed to visit Croatia no later than 15 June.

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