EU promises summer tourist season amid pandemic

Europe COVID-19 cases almost at 1 million, coming weeks critical: WHO

Brussels: The European Commission has offered a tourism and transport package, aimed to provide guidance for the European Union (EU) member states to gradually lift the internal travel restrictions and restart tourism, two months after strict measures were introduced to contain COVID-19.

The package included an overall strategy towards future recovery, a common approach to restoring free movement within the EU, a framework to support the gradual re-establishment of safe transport, a recommendation aiming to help protect consumers' rights concerning cancelled trips due to the pandemic, and criteria for restoring tourism activities while ensuring health safety, reports Xinhua news agency.

The guidance was made to "offer people the chance to get some well-needed rest, relaxation and fresh air", and to allow people to visit their friends and family within the EU, the Commission in a statement on Wednesday.

It also aimed to help EU tourism, one of the hardest-hit sectors, to recover from the pandemic by supporting businesses.

Most of the controls are still valid until mid-May.

Appearing at a joint video press conference on Wednesday, Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, proposed the common approach that comprises three stages.

In phase zero, transport, frontier, posted and seasonal workers should be allowed to access their work. In phase one, smooth transit should be facilitated for professionals and for personal reasons as well as for tourism.

In phase two, travel for all purposes should be permitted throughout the bloc.

Although giving no timing for entering phase one, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides said that a coordinated approach should be taken by starting "lifting restrictions between areas or member states with sufficiently similar epidemiological situations".

"This summer will not be a summer like all the others, and we're going to have to adapt to the new reality," Kyriakides told reporters.

She called for a responsible way of easing the restrictions: "We mustn't ever forget all the sacrifices that citizens have been taking for the last few months in terms of the change in their everyday life."

The Commission reassured its support for the tourism industry and offered to promote patronage voucher schemes through which consumers can support their favourite local tourism businesses.

It would also promote lesser-known European destinations.

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