U-Turn: Spain to delay reopening up land border with France

The Spanish government has made a U-turn after initially announcing it would reopen its land borders with France and Portugal on June 22nd.

U-Turn: Spain to delay reopening up land border with France
Photo: AFP

Spain will reopen its land borders with France and Portugal on July 1, the tourism ministry said Thursday, reversing an earlier statement by the minister suggesting it would be earlier.

The clarification was issued after Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto told a foreign press briefing that the restrictions on cross-border movement with France and Portugal would be lifted on June 22nd.

“We are maintaining the date of July 1 for the resumption of international mobility and the reopening of international tourism,” a spokeswoman told AFP after Lisbon expressed surprise and asked for clarification.

In a statement, the ministry said internal mobility within Spain would be permitted once a national state of alert ended on June 21, while the country would reopen its borders to international visitors “from July 1”.

“We were surprised by (Maroto's) declarations,” Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told national news agency Lusa.   

“It is, of course, Portugal which decides on the reopening of the Portuguese border and Portugal wants to do this in a coordinated manner” with Spain, he said.

“Unfortunately, declarations by Spanish government ministers follow one after the other and are not closely coordinated.”   

“In the case of France and Portugal, I want to confirm that from June 22nd, the restrictions on mobility will be lifted,”  Maroto had said in a briefing with the foreign press on Thursday morning, adding that in principle the 14-day quarantine requirement “will also be dropped”.

“This is very important because it will allow us to welcome back both French and Portuguese tourists,” the minister noted.

The date coincided with the end of the state of emergency which has just been given a final extension until June 21st.

Spain closed its borders with France and Portugal on March 17, three days after imposing a nationwide lockdown to battle the virus which has infected more than 240,000 people and killed over 27,000.

And Spain had announced in May it would quarantine anyone arriving into the country from Europe from May 15th.

France responded by saying that it would quarantine arrivals from Spain “on the principle of reciprocity” with a French presidential official saying the quarantine measure “did not represent the desire” of France.

However the French quarantine currently in place has a lot of exemptions and is voluntary only.

READ ALSO Who is quarantined on arrival in France?

Spain had already announced it would ditch the quarantine requirement for arrivals in July in order to encourage tourism.

“Right now, given the improvement in the epidemic in Spain, there is a debate under way about whether we could bring forward the date for lifting this quarantine requirement,” Morato said.

“If the conditions are right to lift the requirement before July 1st, we will.”

However, a statement issued by the Spanish government just hours later made clear that the July 1date still stood. This is in line with an announcement made by the Spanish premier in late May.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said late last month that Spain was preparing to kickstart its tourism sector and welcome visitors from July.

“I am announcing to you that from the month of July, entry for foreign tourists into Spain will resume in secure conditions,” Sanchez told a press conference.

Reaffirming the importance of tourism to the Spanish economy, Sanchez said the country would again be ready to welcome visitors in the summer. 

“As you know, Spain receives more than 80 million visitors a year. I am announcing that from July.

“Foreign tourists can also start planning their holidays in our country,” he said.



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French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.