European states reopen borders after three months

Updated 16 Jun 2020

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A couple sits in a terrace bar as people walk near the beach of Palma de Mallorca, Spain on Monday, June 15, 2020. — AP
A couple sits in a terrace bar as people walk near the beach of Palma de Mallorca, Spain on Monday, June 15, 2020. — AP

BERLIN: European countries reopened borders on Monday after a three-month coronavirus shutdown, although international visitors are still being kept away and there was uncertainty over whether many Europeans will quickly embrace travel outside their home countries.

The virus is far from being wiped out, and the need for constant vigilance came into sharp focus again as China, where Covid-19 first emerged last year, rushed to contain an outbreak in Beijing.

Germany and France dropped border checks nearly two weeks after Italy opened its frontiers. Greece welcomed visitors on Monday with passengers on flights from other European countries not having to undergo compulsory coronavirus tests.

The European Union’s 27 nations and a number of other European states aren’t expected to start reopening to visitors from outside the continent until at least the beginning of July and possibly later.

Spain put its tourism industry to the test on Monday by allowing thousands of Germans to fly to its Balearic Islands without a 14-day quarantine. Officials said the pilot programme will help authorities gauge what is needed to guard against possible virus flare-ups.

Martin Hofman was delighted to board a flight from Dusseldorf to the island of Mallorca because he said his vacation could not be postponed.

"To stay in Germany was not an option for us," Hofman said. "We are totally happy that we can get out."

A long line of cars formed at Bulgaria’s main border crossing with Greece after it reopened to visitors, with health officials conducting random tests on those entering, with roughly one person in every 15 checked.

Slovenia lifted travel restrictions with Italy, and the mayors of two towns on opposite sides of the border jointly removed a traffic sign that barred movement from one to the other. The towns of Nova Gorica in Slovenia and Gorizia in Italy are closely linked culturally and economically.

In Beijing, where an outbreak was traced to a market that supplies much of the city’s meat and vegetables, thousands lined up for tests at hospitals and other facilities. Authorities confirmed 79 cases over four days in what looks to be the largest outbreak since China largely stopped its spread at home more than two months ago.

Tests were being administered to workers at the Xinfadi market, anyone who had visited it in the past two weeks, or anyone who had come in contact with either group. The market is Beijing’s largest wholesale food market, prompting inspections of fresh meat and seafood in the city and elsewhere in China.

Authorities also locked down the neighborhood around a second market, where three cases were confirmed. In all, 90,000 people are affected in the two neighborhoods in the city of 20 million.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2020