By Stefan J. Bos
While still mourning its reported 28,000 coronavirus deaths, Spain wants to reopen to the outside world. The world's second-most visited nation currently demands all foreign visitors isolate themselves for 14 days on arrival.
But in a significant turnaround, the government of the world's second-most visited country decided to lift the controls from July 1.
It is an attempt to revive its tourist industry for the holiday season. Prime Minister Petro Sánchez said he wants Spain to establish reciprocal "safe corridors" with other countries in Europe. "I am announcing that there will be a tourist season this summer. We want to guarantee the reactivation of national tourism for this summer season," Sánchez told his nation.
In televised remarks, he added: "I publicly invite all tourist establishments, bars, restaurants, beach destinations to start to prepare from today and to restart their activities in a few days. I am announcing that from July, foreign visits to Spain will resume under safety conditions."
And his foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya proposed that Spain and other European Union member states should agree to a common approach to open borders. She wants a European definition of which countries should be deemed as safe.
Saving the tourism industry and commerce is also crucial for other European nations struggling to overcome the economic impact of the pandemic. Among them is Europe's largest economy Germany, which has entered into a technical recession. Official figures show that the German economy shrank by 2.2 percent in the first quarter of the year. That is compared to the same period in 2019 amid a global downturn linked to the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the financial difficulties, the government agreed to a rescue deal worth 9 billion euros to save Germany's crucial airliner Lufthansa from collapse after many flights were canceled due to the coronavirus crisis.
There was also some good news in Europe for beer-loving Czechs. They can finally get back into pubs, but with social distancing and mask-wearing indoors. Perhaps no surprise as the Czech Republic is the country with the highest per capita beer consumption in the world.
Elsewhere in central and Eastern Europe, Hungary is talking with neighboring nations to ease border controls.
But as summer approaches in the European continent, some government leaders are under pressure for violating their own coronavirus restriction rules. In Austria, President Alexander Van der Bellen has apologized after staying at an Italian restaurant with friends beyond the coronavirus-related closing time of 2300.
And in Britain, prime minister Boris Johnson is under pressure to fire his chief aid for allegedly violating the national lockdown rules that he helped to create. Dominic Cummings drove the length of England to his parents' house while being infected with the coronavirus.