The European Union has unveiled its plan to help citizens across its 27 nations salvage their summer holidays after months of coronavirus confinement in hopes of resurrecting Europe’s battered tourism industry across Portugal, Spain, Italy and France especially.
Around 200,000 people have died across Europe since the virus surfaced in northern Italy in February after starting out in Wuhan in China, but with the spread of the disease tapering off, people in many countries are cautiously venturing out of confinement to return to work and some schools are reopening.
A question on the minds of people, tour operators and the thousands of small businesses that depend on the tourism industry is whether the summer months this year will be reduced to a home-style “staycation”.
European Commission executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager told reporters: “This is not going to be a normal summer, not for any of us. But when we all work together, and we all do our part… then we don’t have to face a summer stuck at home or a complete lost summer for the European tourist industry.”
In a series of guidelines, the European Commission laid out its advice for lifting ID checks on hastily closed borders, helping to get airlines, ferries and buses running while ensuring the safety of passengers and crew, and preparing health measures for hotels to reassure clients.
But a big question remains: will the countries of the world’s biggest trading bloc follow the advice?
Faced with a disease about which much is still unknown, national capitals have tended to go it alone, and they – not the commission – have the final say over health and security matters.
The commission’s overarching advice is that EU countries with similar rates of coronavirus infections and comparably strong health care systems should begin lifting border measures between each other. Tourists from outside Europe cannot enter until at least June 15.