Berlin – France, Germany and Switzerland were among the European countries to allow travel to resume on Monday, some three months after unprecedented restrictions were imposed in a bid to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
European borders are slowly reopening
France reopened its borders with all EU countries except Spain, where restrictions will remain in place until June 21 in line with a similar decision on the Spanish side.
Passengers arriving from Britain will also be asked to self-isolate for 14 days, in line with British restrictions on individuals arriving from France.
Borders with non-EU countries remain closed to all but essential travel, except for incoming foreign students who can now head to France.
Traffic was reported on a motorway leading to the German-Danish border on Monday, just hours after Copenhagen lifted entry restrictions for German, Norwegian and Icelandic nationals and Germany lifted travel restrictions for most European countries.
A kilometre-long queue of cars was reported on the A7 leading up to the Kupfermuehle border crossing, where checks were still being conducted, police said on Twitter. No traffic was reported at other border crossings in the area.
Travel warning is also lifted
Germany’s Foreign Ministry removed a warning against travelling to 27 countries in Europe from its website at midnight, ending an unprecedented directive against all foreign travel that had been put in place to stem the virus.
Germany is also to stop carrying out border controls on Monday, although the checks have already been phased out at many crossings.
The travel relaunch is in line with a recommendation by the European Commission, which is urging EU members to reopen borders beginning this week.
The Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) welcomed the lifting of restrictions on Monday, saying: “The opening of EU borders … could act as a second stimulus package for the German economy without costing the state a single cent.”
In a Facebook message on Sunday, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio called Monday a “D-Day, the day of the European reopening” and stressed the importance for the Italian economy of restarting tourism.
“Unblocking tourist flows means bringing foreign tourists to Italy and giving further support to our economy, our craftsmen and our families during the summer season,” he wrote.
Greece, another popular holiday destination, reopened its two largest airports, in Athens and Thessaloniki, on Monday.
These steps go some way towards normalizing travel again within the bloc during the summer tourism season, although warnings for Germans remain in place for four countries in the EU and the passport-free Schengen area: Spain, Finland, Norway and Sweden.
Spain, Norway and Finland are not included as they have extended their own bans, while Sweden is the only EU country where the pandemic is not judged to be sufficiently under control to allow the warning to be lifted.
The Commission is recommending a gradual lifting of travel restrictions after June 30 for non-EU citizens wishing to get into Europe.
After opening its borders to most neighbouring countries in the first week of June, Austria also ends quarantine orders and virus tests at the end of Monday with other EU countries and non-EU Nordic states.
But some travel restrictions still apply
However, travel restrictions remain for Sweden, Spain, Portugal and Britain, and there is a travel warning for Italy’s coronavirus hotspot Lombardy.
On Monday, Switzerland lifted entry restrictions on all countries of the European Union and Britain. In addition, curbs were scrapped for Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland, the non-EU countries that form the European Free Trade Association with Switzerland.
Denmark allowed entry for tourists from neighbouring Germany, Norway and Iceland, but visitors must show they have a booking of at least six nights at a hotel, camping site or a holiday home for entry.
Finland reopened its borders to travellers from six neighbouring states but also did not include Sweden due to its higher case load.
Meanwhile, Norway is welcoming back leisure travellers from neighbouring Iceland, Denmark and Finland.
Iceland will from Monday offer coronavirus testing to travellers (except children) as an alternative to undergoing 14 days in quarantine. The test, which costs about 113 dollars, will be offered free of charge until July 1. A certificate from a prior test could also be accepted in some cases.
European holidays in 2020