Berlin: Europe is taking a big step toward a new normality as many countries open borders to fellow Europeans after three months of coronavirus lockdowns — but even though Europeans love their summer vacations, it’s not clear how many are ready to travel again.
Tourists from the US, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East will just have to wait for now. Europe is expected to start opening up to some visitors from elsewhere next month, but details remain unclear.
The European Union home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, told member nations last week that they “should open up as soon as possible” and suggested Monday was a good date.
Many countries are doing just that, allowing travel from the EU, Britain and the rest of Europe’s usually passport-free Schengen travel area, which includes non-EU countries like Switzerland.
Europe’s reopening won’t be a repeat of the chaotic free-for-all in March when panicked, uncoordinated border closures caused traffic jams that stretched for miles. Still, it’s a complicated, shifting patchwork of different rules. And although tourist regions are desperately counting on them, a lot of Europeans may decide to stay close to home this summer.
That’s something tourism-dependent Mediterranean countries such as Greece are keen to avoid. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis acknowledged Saturday that “a lot will depend on whether people feel comfortable to travel and whether we can project Greece as a safe destination.”
Greece has emphasised its handling of its outbreak, which saw only 183 deaths. Overall, Europe has seen more than 182,000 virus-linked deaths this year, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that also shows Europe has had 2.04 million of the world’s 7.8 million infections.
Hard-hit Spain, which Sunday moved forward its opening to European travelers by 10 days to June 21, is allowing thousands of Germans to fly to its Balearic Islands for a trial run starting Monday — waiving its 14-day quarantine for the group.
“This pilot program will help us learn a lot for what lies ahead in the coming months,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said. “We want our country, which is already known as a world-class tourist destination, to be recognized as also a secure destination.”