Spain, Portugal frustrated with changing virus travel policies

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) – Spain’s top diplomat pushed back on French warnings about vacations in the Iberian Peninsula on Friday as holiday hotspots in southern Europe fear repeated changes to the rules on people authorized to visit do not deter people from traveling.

French Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune on Thursday advised people to “avoid Spain and Portugal as destinations” when booking their vacations as the French government is considering restrictions on travel to the Iberian neighbors, where COVID-19 infections are on the increase.

Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya said the current wave was not translating into more hospitalizations and urged people to be “proportionate” in their response to pandemic trends.

“It is time for caution, not for panic,” she said at a press conference in Madrid. “There is no reason at this time to ask people to cancel their vacations.”

Visiting French Foreign Minister Yves Le Drian urged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 before traveling.

“The vaccine is Spain’s doorstep,” he said.

The millions of tourists who arrive each year in Spain and Portugal are crucial for the economy and employment of the Iberian countries. The two hope that tourism will contribute to an economic recovery after the pandemic.

French tourists left out would be a big blow.

For Iberian tourism businesses, the past year was mostly a failure due to COVID-19 closures and local and international travel restrictions.

This year is proving to be a wild race, as the rules have shifted amid efforts to resume pleasure travel.

Germany on Friday called the whole of Spain a “risk zone”, potentially discouraging travel there.

Portugal have also been hit by rule changes.

Portuguese businesses last month applauded when the country was placed on the UK’s ‘green list’, allowing UK tourists to skip quarantine when returning home. Three weeks later, amid an increase in COVID-19 infections, Portugal was removed from the list and the UK market dried up.

It is hoped that could change again after July 19, when the UK government removes the requirement for people traveling abroad to self-quarantine, provided they are fully vaccinated.

Germany this week relaxed its recent strict restrictions on travel to Portugal, which had discouraged the Portuguese tourism sector. Now, a negative test is enough for Germans returning from vacation to avoid quarantine.

“Everyone keeps changing and changing their rules,” said Eliderico Viegas, head of the Portuguese Association of Hotels and Resorts in the Algarve, a representative body. “France, and before her Germany, are good examples.”

Portugal, like Spain, expected this summer to be less bad than last year. The French minister’s comments changed that perspective, according to Viegas.

“There is no doubt that demand will drop now,” he told The Associated Press.


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