MADRID (Reuters) - Spain will reopen its borders to most European visitors from June 21, 10 days earlier than previously planned, the government said on Sunday, in a further easing of coronavirus restrictions but a week later than some other EU member states.
One of the world’s most visited destinations, Spain has sent mixed signals on when it would reopen its borders as it tries to lure back tourists, having announced several dates in recent weeks.
From June 21 - when Spain’s state of emergency ends - it will allow the entry of visitors from the European Union and the open-border Schengen area, which also includes non-EU countries such as Switzerland and Norway, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya tweeted.
Visitors from outside the EU or Schengen area will be able to visit Spain from July 1, though that will hinge on their country’s public health situation, Laya said.
British visitors would be able to travel to Spain from June 21 since Britain is still considered part of the EU, a Spanish foreign ministry source said.
Spain’s borders are currently closed to tourists and those exempted from the entry ban must spend 14 days in quarantine as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19, which has so far killed more than 27,000 people in the country.
“Tourism is a key sector for the economic recovery,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told a news briefing. “We have been able to corner the virus in our country and on the European continent... but the risk has not disappeared.”
Sanchez said Spain’s land border with Portugal would remain closed till July 1 because Lisbon had requested it.
The European Commission recommended on Thursday that Schengen area countries, which normally have no border checks, lift controls by June 15.
After Spain’s three-month-long state of emergency ends on June 21, wearing masks in public will remain mandatory until a cure or vaccine for COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the virus, is found.
Spain will allow German tourists to start visiting its Balearic Islands from Monday as a test programme.
Sanchez also said on Sunday a planned aid package to rescue Spain’s automobile sector would total 3.7 billion euros, adding that further details would be announced on Monday.
The lockdown has hammered car sales in Spain, and last month Nissan Motor Co [7201.T] said it would close its 3,000-workforce plants in Barcelona. The government has said it will try to reverse the decision.
Reporting by Joan Faus; Editing by Gareth Jones and Jane Merriman