Albania reopens land borders, but mass gatherings still banned

TIRANA (Reuters) - Albania reopened its land borders and let people move around freely on Monday after 79 days of coronavirus curbs, but will still ban mass activities until June 23.

Despite a spike in daily infections last week, the situation was “stable”, a health official said. With a population of 2.8 million, Albania has had just 1,143 COVID-19 cases and 33 deaths.

Sports, especially much-missed soccer, will restart this week without fans. Parks, internet centres and gyms also opened on Monday under new hygiene guidelines. Shops are already open.

Mass transport, cinemas, theatres, nightclubs, swimming pools, weddings, conferences and public hearings won’t reopen until June 23.

Keen to help tourism make up its losses, Albania also opened beaches serving hotels on Monday and allowed ethnic Albanians to come on holiday.

The World Bank has predicted Albania’s economy will shrink by 5% if most activities restart by early summer, and 6.9% if they start later in the season.

Reporting by Benet Koleka, Editing by Nick Macfie