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Spain aims to reopen borders to tourism in late June

By Reuters and Chronicle staff
Tourism-dependent Spain aims to reopen borders to visitors around the end of June as its coronavirus lockdown fully unwinds, a minister said on Monday, in a much-needed boost for the ravaged travel sector.

Madrid last week surprised its European Union partners by imposing a two-week quarantine on all overseas travellers and effectively keeping borders closed, saying that was needed to avoid importing a second wave of the COVID-19 disease.

But the move was meant to be temporary and Transport Minister Jose Luis Abalos said it would be phased out in parallel with travel being allowed within Spain, whose regions are easing restrictions in different phases.

"We can't allow foreigners to travel while the Spanish population is confined," he told TVE broadcaster.

"From late June, we'll start the tourism activity, I hope ... We must make Spain an attractive country from the health point of view.”

Asked about Gibraltar’s border with Spain during the last of the daily 4pm press conferences at No.6 Convent Place, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said it was too soon to say when normal cross-frontier flow would be restored.

At present, only those with work contracts in Gibraltar and residency in Spain are being allowed to cross, a restriction arising from the wider Spanish lockdown regulations that restrict movement for citizens.

“A lot will turn on how Spain addresses its own internal movement rules,” Mr Picardo said.

“At the moment there are different provinces and different parts of the autonomous regions of Spain going through different phases of unlocking.”

“We need to see how that develops in the next seven days.”

SLOW REOPENING
Tourism accounts for over 12% of Spain's economic output. Even with a reopening of borders in late June, the industry's revenues will fall by between 93 billion and 124 billion euros, lobby group Exceltur estimated in a report last month.

One of the worst-hit nations with 27,650 deaths and 231,350 infections, Spain is slowly easing a strict lockdown in place since mid-March which had meant that, for weeks, people could not even go out for exercise.

Restaurants and bars are now gradually reopening - even though staff knew customers would be scarce.

The epidemic has put health services under severe stress and battered the economy, which could shrink between 9.5-12.4% this year, followed by a 6.1-8.5% bounce back in 2021, Bank of Spain governor Pablo Hernandez de Cos said yesterday.

Unemployment rose sharply in March and April, pushing the number of people depending on unemployment benefits to a record 5.2 million.

Including furloughed workers and people on medical leave, as many as 7 million people are depending on the state, almost 30% of the working population, according to data that Spain sent to Brussels in early May.

In a change from the previous morning time, the government was to announce the latest 24-hour tally of coronavirus cases and fatalities at around 5 pm (1500 GMT) from Monday onwards.