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Greece opens two Athens and Thessaloniki welcoming arriving passengers from 29 countries Greece opens two Athens and Thessaloniki welcoming arriving passengers from 29 countries  (AFP or licensors)

Europe reopens borders but concerns remain over pandemic

Borders reopened across Europe on Monday after three months of coronavirus lockdowns. But many restrictions persist and remain unclear how willing Europeans will be to travel this summer.

By Stefan J. Bos

There was no notable celebration as border checks for most Europeans were dropped overnight in Germany, France, and elsewhere. It happened two weeks after heavily coronavirus-hit Italy opened its frontiers. However, uncertainty remains over how keen tourists are to travel this summer in a continent that authorities say is still recovering of a coronavirus pandemic that claimed some 182,000 lives in Europe.

And the European Union's 27 nations and those in the Schengen passport-free travel area, including a few non-EU countries such as Switzerland, are still closed to Americans, Asians, and other international tourists. They aren't due to start opening to visitors from outside the continent until at least the beginning of next month, and possibly later.

French President Emmanuel Macron urged caution. Announcing Monday's reopening of borders and Paris restaurants, French President Emmanuel Macron said: "It's time to turn the page of the first act of the crisis" and "rediscover our taste for freedom."

But he warned: "This doesn't mean the virus has disappeared and we can totally let down our guard. ... The summer of 2020 will be summer, unlike any other. And he said that from July 1, France would be able to allow visitors from outside the EU where the pandemic is under control."

Still, the need to restart Europe's tourism again is urgent for France and countries such as Spain and Greece as the economic fallout of the crisis multiplies. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis acknowledged that "a lot will depend on whether people feel comfortable to travel and whether we can project Greece as a safe destination."

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15 June 2020, 14:20