After months of closed borders to all tourism-related travel due to COVID-19, several European countries and the European Union are beginning to draft plans regarding the reopening of many borders to tourism. The European Commission has been encouraging its members to correlate their borders and re-openings, and while some are abiding by its requests to wait until they have both a coordinated plan and less COVID-19 cases, others – such as EU member states Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, which opened their borders to each other mid-May – are formulating their own methods, causing many health scientists to worry about future waves of the coronavirus that could arise.
In the past few months, nations around the world like Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and Greece, and other duos or trios of neighbouring countries have discussed opening up their borders to each other in order to generate more income via tourists, with European countries following suit and holding their own talks. The European Union has expressed “suspicion over these ‘tourism corridors,’ where member states make bilateral deals to open to each other’s tourists,” according to the Guardian, but as the destruction of COVID-19 lessens in some nations and the lack of commercial travel continues to damage Europe’s tourism industry, European officials are opening up to the idea. Paolo Gentiloni, the European commissioner for the economy, stated that the European tourism industry will lose about 40 percent of its income this year, calling the industry “obviously the hardest hit sector.”
It is essential that all countries within the European Union follow the guidelines regarding reopening borders that have been given to them by the European Commission. They need to keep in mind the high probability that future destructive waves of the coronavirus could (and, as many scientists predict, most likely will) occur if safety precautions are not properly taken and citizens are allowed to casually cross borders. Many nations are introducing requirements for incoming travelers that all European countries would benefit from duplicating; according to the New York Times, visitors to Iceland (opening its borders in mid-June) “will be subject to a COVID-19 test upon arrival,” and an insider told the Guardian that travellers to Greece may “be tested for COVID-19 three days before departure.” Taking the most health precautions possible is the only way to ensure a safe future for visitors and citizens alike in each European country, and borders should not be reopened until nations are sure that they and their neighboring countries have adequate protection for all.
According to Statista, as of June 4th, Spain and Italy are the countries in the European Union (excluding the United Kingdom) with the highest number of total coronavirus cases, with 240,326 and 233,836 cases respectively. These member nations received widespread media coverage first in March, when the virus started to spread globally, for being devastated by COVID-19 in such a short amount of time; shortly after, many other countries in the European Union followed suit with their own influx of cases. After the World Health Organization announced that Europe and Russia were to be the next epicenter of the coronavirus in March, the members of the European Union indefinitely closed their borders to everyone and everything except for “goods, medical equipment and in some cases people deemed to be necessary to the EU’s efforts to manage the coronavirus spread,” CNN explained.
With even countries like Spain and Italy, which have a quarter of a million COVID-19 cases each, considering opening their borders to each other in the near future, countries all over Europe as well as the European Union must proceed with caution as there is still such a large risk for the virus to spread. Additionally–though members of the European Union have not yet been required to follow border recommendations given to them by the European Commission – member nations choosing different paths to address opening borders to tourism could lead to intense disorganization within the EU and tension amongst its members. The European Union, like nations all around the world, is faced with deciding between the safety of their citizens, or the stability of their economies.