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'A calculated risk' - Spain and Italy plan to resume summer holidays from June

Both countries have been devastated by coronavirus, but say lockdown and public health measures are working, and tourism could begin to reboot from next month

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Sa Coma in Majorca, Spain

Sa Coma in Majorca, Spain

Sa Coma in Majorca, Spain

Holidaymakers could return to Spain from the end of June.

That's according to Spanish Transport Minister José Luis Ábalos, who said in an interview on RTVE that overseas visitors will be able to enter the country, without quarantine, within several weeks.

"We hope to welcome Irish visitors back as soon as it is safe, and as the roadmap to recovery is progressing in Spain," Rubén López Pulido, Director of the Spanish Tourism Office (STO) in Dublin, confirmed.

"The government of Spain and the Spanish Tourism Office (STO) are working to reactivate tourism from the end of June, without quarantines, as we finalise tourist experiences from safe origins to safe destinations," he added.

"The Canary Islands, and in particular Lanzarote for the Irish, are doing tremendously well in health terms, with no new cases for a month now with what will soon be, if not already, Covid-free."

Over 585,000 Irish visits were taken to the Canaries in 2019, the STO in Dublin says, and caseloads in Lanzarote (84) and Fuerteventura (45) in particular have given Irish travel agents and holidaymakers hope.

The news follows Italy's announcement that EU visitors, as well as those from the UK, Norway and Switzerland, will be able to enter the country without quarantine from June 3.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called the move a "calculated risk".

“We have to accept it, otherwise we could not restart," he said in a televised address announcing Italy's next steps. "We cannot wait for a vaccine.”

Of course, holidays from Ireland are a non-runner until the lifting of official advice against "non-essential travel" and a relaxation of restrictions confining people to within 5km, and subsequently 20km, of their homes to July 20.

Quarantines, screening and health protocols all remain to be worked out before travel resumes, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said it could be "months rather than weeks" before non-essential air travel returns.

Italy has suffered more than 226,000 cases and 32,000 deaths from Covid-19 to date, while Spain has more than 231,000 cases and 27,800 deaths.

Figures tailed off substantially during lockdown periods, however, and both countries have gradually been easing restrictions on life and business.

Italian shops reopened and movement within regions recommenced on Monday, with a one-metre social distance requirement between guests in bars, hotels and restaurants, and a 10sqm space allocated per umbrella on beaches.

Spain's two-week quarantine on international visitors is likely to expire on June 7, and it is now working on hygiene protocols and airport health measures to safely reboot tourism, subject to the public health situation.

"This is a crisis of confidence, and fear must be overcome by offering security," López Pulido told the Irish Independent.

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Portugal's Algarve, with the new 'Clean & Safe' stamp (inset)

Portugal's Algarve, with the new 'Clean & Safe' stamp (inset)

Portugal's Algarve, with the new 'Clean & Safe' stamp (inset)

The developments come after the EU last week advised that member states, or areas with similar rates of infection and comparably strong health systems, could begin opening borders between each other.

Throughout Europe, quarantine periods generally remain in place for arrivals, but Greece, Portugal, Cyprus and Iceland are among several countries now signalling that tourism could resume from June or July.

Portugal took another step towards its "new normal" this week, as museums, galleries, restaurants, cafés, churches and cultural centres reopened with hygiene and social distancing criteria in place.

Over 4,000 businesses have signed up for its 'Clean & Safe' stamp of approval, Visit Portugal says, with beaches and waterparks set to re-open from June.

Malta, another island destination with a low infection rate (569 cases), is in discussion with several countries about "safe corridors" for summer travel - including Austria, Norway, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

It has announced new tourism protocols for staff working in the holiday sector, including the display of 'Covid-19 compliant' stickers, a ban on buffets and the closure of indoor pools.

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