MADRID (Reuters) – Spain will open up land borders with France and Portugal on June 22 and also aims to start welcoming tourists to some islands and other areas that have the coronavirus under control around the same time, a minister said on Thursday.
Frontiers with France and Portugal have been shut to everyone but Spaniards, cross-border workers and truck drivers since a mid-March lockdown to curb what was then one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.
But with its rate of deaths and infections sharply down, Spain is among nations trying to gradually restore freedom of movement in Europe’s usually border-free Schengen area.
“This is very important because it will allow us to recover some tourists … on land routes,” Spain’s Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said in the world’s second most visited nation where the sector accounts for about 12% of the economy.
Maroto said Spain would probably exempt arrivals by land from France and Portugal from a 14-day quarantine obligation currently in place, but added that was yet to be approved.
Maroto said tour operator TUI was due to bring 6,000 Germans to visit the Balearic archipelago around the island of Mallorca.
She said this and another scheme in the Canary islands off the northwest of Africa were expected to take place during the second half of June, before borders fully open on July 1.
The two island regions are “in a good position from the point of view of controlling the pandemic” she said.
Spain has registered 240,326 coronavirus cases and 27,128 deaths.
These early visitors’ temperatures will be tested, and they will be asked to fill in a questionnaire about their health and where they will stay for tracking, the minister said.
They will also use a contact-tracing mobile telephone app.
France has previously said it favours Europe opening internal borders from June 15, and Portugal that it assumed its border with Spain would be shut until the end of the month.