Brussels, May 13 (efe-epa).- The European Commission on Wednesday presented a set of guidelines advising member states on how to gradually reopen internal European Union borders that have been closed for several weeks as part of measures to stem the coronavirus outbreak.
Travel restrictions and border closures have had a severely damaging impact on tourism, which makes up almost 10 percent of the bloc’s economic output, and the European Union’s leaders are keen to kick start the industry ahead of the summer high-season.
The guidelines “allow people to take holidays and catch up with their friends and families, to let tourism businesses reopen after months of being locked down, and to help member states gradually lift travel restrictions while respecting the necessary health precautions”, according to a statement by the Commission.
The Tourism and Transport Package includes an overall strategy for recovery this year and beyond, and a common approach to lifting restrictions and restoring the free movement of people across internal borders “in a gradual and coordinated way”.
Member states must weigh several criteria when considering relaxing restriction measures and the resumption of tourism, with the main prerequisite being that “epidemiological evidence showing that the spread of the disease has significantly decreased and stabilized for a sustained period of time”, and would remain stable with the influx of tourist visitors, the Commission warned.
The EC added that sufficient health system capacity must be guaranteed for both locals and tourists, surveillance of potential outbreaks and monitoring of health service capacity must increase and that large-scale testing and contact tracing be in place before the measures are relaxed.
While the Commission highlighted the importance of “non-discrimination” when restoring cross-border movement, it advised that travel should only occur between EU member states “with similar epidemiological conditions”.
The guidelines come as several countries were announcing their own bilateral agreements to reopen borders.
France and the United Kingdom have agreed not to force people who travel between the two countries to isolate, while Spain said on Tuesday that it would impose a 14-day quarantine on all travellers arriving from abroad.
Authorities in Germany and Austria, meanwhile, said their shared border, which has been closed since mid-March, would be partially reopened from 15 May, with some random checks taking place. The border will reopen completely one month later, on 15 June. EFE-EPA