Italy yesterday led European nations reopening borders as the continent slowly emerged from quarantines to restart battered economies after the coronavirus pandemic.
European nations among the hardest hit by the outbreak have mostly flattened out infection curves and turned to the tricky task of balancing economic recovery against the risk of a second wave of cases.
Italy — the first country badly hammered in Europe — is leading the way to restart, hoping tourism will revive its recession-hit economy three months after the nation closed.
But with health experts warning over reopening too quickly, some fear foreign visitors may be reluctant to travel.
“I don’t think we’ll see any foreign tourists really until the end of August or even September. Who’s going to come? No one from South America, China or the US,” said Mimmo Burgio, a cafe owner near Rome’s Colosseum.
International flights to Italy are only expected to resume in three main cities: Milan, Rome and Naples.
Some of Italy’s neighbours are not yet ready to lift travel restrictions from the country.
Austria said yesterday it would scrap virus controls on all land borders, except for Italy, still viewed by some of neighbours as a virus hotspot.
Germany will also lift its blanket travel warning for European nations from June 15, replacing it with warnings for individual countries.
“This decision raises great hope and expectations but I want to say again: travel warnings are not travel bans, and travel advice is not an invitation to travel,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas cautioned yesterday.
Belgium will reopen its borders to travellers from the EU, Britain and members of Europe’s passport-free travel zone on June 15, while London City Airport will restart domestic service at the end of June followed by international flights in early July.
Britain — with the second highest death rate in the world after the US at nearly 40,000 fatalities — is still advising against non-essential travel.
And as Europe reopened, the race to find a vaccine gathered pace.
The continent’s four largest economies — France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands — are forming an alliance to speed up production of a vaccine on European soil, Dutch officials said.
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