The EU’s executive has proposed a gradual lifting of borders in a bid to prevent the total collapse of its tourist industry hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
The scale of the crisis was illustrated by travel giant Tui announcing the loss of up to 8,000 jobs worldwide with plans to cut costs by 30%. The German government has given the company a €1.8bn (£1.6bn; $1.9bn) bridging loan to stay afloat.
“Our message is we will have a tourist season this summer,” said Paolo Gentiloni, the EU economic affairs commissioner, “even if it’s with security measures and limitations.”
Indeed, borders have been closed across the EU, including the border-free Schengen zone, since March. But states are starting to reopen them. Austria and Germany have become the latest EU countries to agree to remove travel restrictions.
From Friday there will be random checks at border crossings and then on 15 June free movement should resume. “We want to make people’s everyday lives easier and take another step towards more normality,” said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
UK travellers have already been warned not to expect “lavish” international holidays, with plans for a 14-day quarantine on air arrivals. But travel without quarantine will be possible to France and Ireland.
What is the EU planning?
The European Commission said its guidance was based on the principles of safety and non-discrimination. Tourism provided almost 10% of Europe’s economic output and millions of jobs across the 27 member states relied on it.
Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager said no-one should travel if they felt sick or experienced symptoms.
The non-binding plans involve countries working together to gradually remove travel bans and then border checks, while keeping targeted measures as the Covid-19 outbreak comes under control across the member states.
A phased approach would start by allowing seasonal workers across borders, followed by a lifting of restrictions between countries with the virus under a similar level of control and then the opening of all the EU’s internal borders.
In Africa, regional bodies like the African Union, ECOWAS and the SADC have kept mum on any talks about opening borders or the summer tourist season. Rather, the bodies have been dealing with rising Covid-19 infection and how to confront the economic challenges arising from it. On Wednesday, Lesotho confirmed its index coronavirus case.
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