Travel to Europe opens up to the continent in Germany, France, Italy, and others


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BERLIN – Borders have opened across Europe on Monday after three months of coronavirus closures which started chaotically in March. Many restrictions persist, it’s unclear how much Europeans will want to travel this summer and the continent is still closed to Americans, Asians and other international tourists.

Border controls for most Europeans were abandoned overnight in Germany, France and elsewhere, almost two weeks after Italy has opened its borders. the European UnionThe 27 countries, as well as those in the Schengen passport-free travel zone, which includes a few non-EU countries like Switzerland, are not expected to open to visitors from outside the continent until at least the start of the next month, or maybe later.

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Announcing the reopening of Parisian borders and restaurants on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said it was time to “turn the page on the first act of the crisis” and “rediscover our taste for freedom”.

He warned, “It doesn’t mean the virus is gone and we can totally let our guard down. … Summer 2020 will be a summer like no other.

This caution is generalized after more than 182,000 deaths linked to the virus in Europe. The region has recorded more than 2 million of the 7.9 million confirmed infections worldwide, according to a count from Johns Hopkins University.

“We have brought the pandemic under control, (but) the reopening of our borders is a critical moment,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said, announcing that he was advancing the opening of Spain to European travelers from 10 days to 21 June. the threat is still real. The virus is still there. “

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Social distancing was rare as shops on Oxford Street in London reopened and Parisian bistros such as Café Des Anges once again welcomed repeat customers. Crowds blocked the entrance to the Niketown store in London despite efforts by employees to have an orderly line.

“It’s very difficult to get people sitting at the bar to respect social distancing,” café manager Virgil Grunberg said. “People missed it, because they come every morning before work, have a little coffee and chat, so of course it’s part of Paris.

The need to revive the European tourism industry is urgent, in particular for Mediterranean countries like Spain, Italy and Greece, as the economic fallout from the crisis multiplies.

“A lot will depend on whether people feel comfortable traveling and whether we can project Greece as a safe destination, ”said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Greece on Monday hosted the first international flights whose passengers did not undergo mandatory COVID-19 tests to Athens and Thessaloniki. Direct international flights to Greek regional airports, including its sunny islands, will begin on July 1. Visitors will be subjected to random virus tests.

On Monday, in a test, Spain allowed the first of thousands of Germans to visit its Balearic Islands – waiving its 14-day quarantine. The idea is to test best practices in the era of the coronavirus.

“This pilot program will help us learn a lot about what lies ahead,” Sánchez said. “We want our country, which is already known as a world-class tourist destination, to be recognized as a safe destination as well.”

Martin Hofman was elated as he boarded the first flight from Düsseldorf to the island of Mallorca – a destination mainland Spaniards can’t even visit yet.

His vacation could not be postponed, “and staying in Germany was not an option for us,” he said. “We are totally happy to be able to go out. “

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The reopening of Europe is not a repeat of the chaotic melee of March, when panicked and uncoordinated border closures caused traffic jams that spanned for miles.

Still, it’s a complicated and changing patchwork of different rules, and not everyone is equally free to travel everywhere. Norway and Denmark keep their borders closed with Sweden, whose viral strategy avoided lockdown but produced a relatively high per capita death rate. Other countries also have travel restrictions for Swedes.

In an interview with public broadcaster SVT, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven dismissed the idea that Sweden’s strategy had failed, citing a drop in hospitalizations and deaths. Although the rate of new infections has increased, officials said this reflects a long-delayed increase in testing.

German drivers lined up on Monday to enter Denmark, which lets German visitors in, but only those who have booked accommodation for at least six nights.

Britain, which left the EU in January but remains closely aligned with the bloc until the end of this year, last week imposed a 14-day quarantine requirement for most arrivals, horrifying its industries tourism and aviation. As a result, France is asking the British to self-quarantine for two weeks and several other countries are not allowing British tourists in during the first wave of reopening.

As flights gradually resume amid nervousness over new outbreaks overseas, uncertainty over social distancing in tourist spots, and millions facing record unemployment or wage cuts, many Europeans may choose to spend their holidays at home.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz are planning a vacation in their home country this year.

The Dutch government said its citizens can visit 16 European countries, but urged caution.

“You can go abroad for your vacation again,” Foreign Minister Stef Blok said. “But it won’t be as carefree as it was before the corona crisis. The virus is still with us and the situation remains uncertain.”

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