MADRID (Reuters) - Passengers wearing masks and wheeling suitcases arrived at Madrid’s main airport and French people crossed the border to buy bargain alcohol and tobacco on Sunday as Spain opened its borders to most European countries and ended a state of emergency imposed to contain COVID-19.
Spain’s borders are now open to all European Union countries except Portugal, as well as Schengen area members outside the bloc and Britain in a much-needed boost to the country’s tourism industry which accounts for more than 12% of the economy.
British tourists will be allowed in without having to quarantine, Spain said on Saturday, even though they will still be subject to 14 days isolation upon their return..
Spaniards were also allowed to move freely around the country from Sunday and many were expected to visit friends, relatives and second homes in other regions. Since March 14, people have had to remain in their own provinces.
People will still have to wear masks in public when social distancing measures cannot be observed.
At Madrid’s international Adolfo Suarez-Barajas airport there was a sense of relief for passengers, many of whom were travelling to see loved ones after months apart.
“My situation is a little complicated because my wife lives in Italy and I live in Spain so we haven’t seen each other for four months,” said Alberto Bos, who was flying to Milan.
All arriving passengers will have their temperature taken, submit information about where they have come from, and provide their whereabouts in Spain in case they need to be traced.
Spain’s border with neighbouring Portugal will reopen on July 1 at Lisbon’s request.
Stickers on the floor of the arrivals hall made sure those waiting for passengers complied with social distancing measures.
BACK TO NORMAL
People with suitcases borded trains at Madrid’s Atocha station heading for coastal Valencia, after months confined to Madrid, over 300 kms (186.4 miles) from the seaside.
Meanwhile, French people crossed the border to queue for relatively cheaper tobacco and alcohol in the northern city of Irun.
“Today it’s all getting a bit back to normal. It’s good for the shops, for the economy, for everything,” said shop owner Luis Mancho.
Some 1,500 German tourists touched down in Mallorca early last week as part of a pilot scheme to establish a travel corridor between the two areas, ahead of the lifting of restrictions on Sunday.
“We will allow British visitors to enter Spain just like the rest of the European Union or Schengen area from 21 June freely and without the need for the quarantine,” foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya told BBC News on Saturday.
But Britain’s own quarantine measures, requiring a two-week period of self-isolation for most people entering the country, could put off potential travellers. Britain is due to review its quarantine rule on June 29, three weeks after it was introduced.
Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said Spain was ready to welcome tourists in an interview with newspaper ABC on Sunday, but added the country has to work to get that message out.
“We have to build trust,” she said. “Translate to travellers, Spaniards and foreigners, that the country is a safe destination.”
Spain, which has recorded more than 245,000 coronavirus cases and over 28,000 deaths, has been easing its lockdown restrictions in recent weeks.
Additional reporting by Elena Rodriguez; Writing by Jessica Jones; Editing by David Clarke and Emelia Sithole-Matarise
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