Madrid/Lisbon, Jun 4 (efe-epa).- The Spanish government on Thursday had to clarify that the country’s international land borders were due to open up from 1 July after the tourism minister set the date nine days earlier, surprising the Portuguese.
Reyes Maroto, a member of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s coalition, told a meeting of foreign press that Spain’s land borders with France to the east and Portugal to the west were set to open on 22 June.
The date coincided with the expiry date of Spain’s state of alarm, the mechanism that underpins the draconian lockdown, which is now being gradually lifted.
It was news to some.
Portugal’s foreign minister, Augusto Santos Silva, told the Lusa news agency: “We were left surprised by these declarations from the minister of tourism, who ‘announced’ the reopening of the border between Portugal and Spain on the 22 June.”
The oldest and one of the longest European frontiers, the Spain-Portugal border closed when the neighboring countries imposed coronavirus restrictions in mid-March.
The move, deemed necessary to stem the spread of Covid-19, divided communities dotted along the region as border checks returned for the first time in 30 years. Only those returning to their country of origin and traders were allowed to cross.
“Portugal is the one who decides on the opening of the Portuguese border, naturally, and Portugal wants to do it in deep coordination with the only country with which it shares that frontier, Spain,” the foreign minister added.
With the announcement circulating in international news, Spain’s government issued a correction just hours later.
“In line with previous announcements, the resumption of tourism and international movement will take place from 1 July,” the ministry said in a press release.
Spain, the world’s second most visited country in 2019 with 83.7 million tourists, is studying how to salvage what will be left of the summer season.
Last year, foreign visitors poured 92 billion euros in the economy, equating to 12 percent of the country’s GDP and providing almost 13 percent of its jobs.
The International Monetary Fund has predicted that the Spanish economy would contract by 8 percent this year as a result of the tough lockdown measures that for a period between March and April — the peak of the health crisis — all but froze business.
It has also been one of the European country’s worst hit by the pandemic, registering more than 27,000 deaths since the outbreak began although daily figures are now down to minimal levels.
In Portugal, which has been lauded for its response to Covid-19, recording 1,455 deaths, tourism accounts for 16 percent of GDP. EFE-EPA