Spain Reopens Its Borders as State of Emergency Comes to an End

MADRID—Passengers wearing masks and wheeling suitcases arrived at Madrid’s main airport and French people crossed the border to buy bargain alcohol and tobacco on June 21 as Spain opened its borders to most European countries and ended a state of emergency imposed to contain COVID-19.

Spain’s borders are now open to all European Union countries except Portugal, as well as Schengen area members outside the bloc and Britain, in a much-needed boost to the country’s tourism industry, which accounts for more than 12 percent of the economy.

British tourists will be allowed in without having to quarantine, Spain said on June 20, even though they will still be subject to 14 days of isolation upon their return.

Spaniards were also allowed to move freely around the country from June 21, and many were expected to visit friends, relatives, and second homes in other regions. Since March 14, people have had to remain in their own provinces.

People will still have to wear masks in public when social distancing measures cannot be observed.

At Madrid’s international Adolfo Suarez-Barajas airport, there was a sense of relief among passengers, many of whom were traveling to see loved ones after months apart.

“My situation is a little complicated because my wife lives in Italy and I live in Spain so we haven’t seen each other for four months,” said Alberto Bos, who was flying to Milan.

All arriving passengers will be required to have their temperatures taken, submit information about their points of origin, and provide their whereabouts in Spain in case they need to be traced.

Spain’s border with neighboring Portugal will reopen on July 1 at Lisbon’s request.

Stickers on the floor of the arrivals hall made sure that anyone waiting for passengers complied with social distancing measures.

But there was only a trickle of travelers at Madrid-Barajas Airport, which on a normal June day would be bustling.

“This freedom that we now have, not having to justify our journey to see our family and friends, this was something that we were really looking forward to,” Pedro Delgado, 23, said after arriving from Spain’s Canary Islands.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez urged people to take maximum precautions: “The virus can return and it can hit us again in a second wave, and we have to do whatever we can to avoid that at all cost.”

Back to Normal

People with suitcases boarded trains at Madrid’s Atocha station heading for coastal Valencia, after months confined to Madrid, more than 186 miles from the seaside.

Meanwhile, French people crossed the border to queue for relatively cheaper tobacco and alcohol in the northern city of Irun.

“Today, it’s all getting a bit back to normal. It’s good for the shops, for the economy, for everything,” said shop owner Luis Mancho.

Some 1,500 German tourists touched down in Mallorca early last week as part of a pilot scheme to establish a travel corridor between the two areas, ahead of the lifting of restrictions on June 21.

“We will allow British visitors to enter Spain just like the rest of the European Union or Schengen area from 21 June freely and without the need for the quarantine,” foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya told BBC News on June 20.

Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said Spain was ready to welcome tourists in an interview with newspaper ABC on June 21 but added the country has to work to get that message out.

“We have to build trust,” she said. “Translate to travelers, Spaniards, and foreigners, that the country is a safe destination.”

Spain, which has recorded more than 245,000 CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus cases and 28,000 deaths, has been easing its lockdown restrictions in recent weeks.

UK to Announce New Social Distancing Rule

But Britain’s own quarantine measures, requiring a two-week period of self-isolation for most people entering the country, could put off potential travelers. Britain is due to review its quarantine rule on June 29, three weeks after it was introduced.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce a new “one meter plus” social distancing rule to reopen UK, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported late on June 20.

The announcement, to be made on June 23, will apply to all venues including offices, schools, and pubs, the paper reported, adding that it will take effect from July 4.

The move will allow people to remain a meter away from others if they take additional measures to protect themselves, such as wearing a mask, according to the report.

Earlier on June 20, culture minister Oliver Dowden said that Britain’s government will announce in the coming days whether it will reduce its two-meter social distancing rule for England.

In England, lockdown restrictions prevented druids, pagans, and party-goers on June 21 from watching the sunrise at the ancient circle of Stonehenge to mark the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. English Heritage, which runs the site, live-streamed it instead. A few people gathered outside the fence.

“You can’t cancel the sunrise,” Arthur Pendragon told the BBC.

By Guillermo Martinez & Jessica Jones