Germany is set to allow its citizens to travel throughout Europe after June 15, in a further relaxation of its coronavirus-related shutdown that will fire the starting gun on the European summer holiday season.
The news will be greeted with relief by the embattled tourist industries of Italy, Greece and Spain, which rely heavily on the annual influx of German visitors. Shares in German holiday company Tui were up 38 per cent on Tuesday morning, while those in budget airline easyJet had risen 17 per cent by midday.
The German government has had a global travel warning in place since March 17, which was recently extended until June 15.
According to the news agency dpa, the foreign ministry will submit a paper to the German cabinet on Wednesday lifting the travel warning for the other 26 member states of the EU as well as the UK, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
The paper says the decision is based on the notion “that the revival of tourism is important not only for holidaymakers and the German travel industry, but also for the economic stability of the destination countries”.
Heiko Maas, foreign minister, said last Wednesday that he hoped the worldwide travel warning would be lifted after June 14, at least for the EU, and replaced by guidelines for individual countries.
But he warned that “there will be no summer holiday as we know it this year”. “Whether you’re going to the Baltic coast or the Mediterranean: the social distance and hygiene rules will be valid everywhere.”
Mr Maas added one should not forget “that just a few weeks ago, we repatriated nearly a quarter of a million stranded German travellers from abroad”. “We don’t want to and can’t repeat that in the summer,” he said.
Germany is pressing for fellow EU member states to adopt additional measures to protect tourists from infection with coronavirus, dpa said. It has proposed that they reimpose shutdown measures in any areas where there have been more than 50 new infections per 100,000 people in the space of seven days.
Germany itself adopted this “emergency brake” rule this month as it moved to loosen its restrictions on public life.
Berlin is also calling on its neighbours to come up with “sustainable concepts” for social distancing and hand hygiene, airing and disinfecting rooms and ensuring that people wear masks. They should also detail plans to deal with holidaymakers who fall ill, ensure they have sufficient test capacity and can isolate and treat people infected with the virus, dpa said.
Germany is insisting that countries implement the recommendations of the European Commission to ensure the safety of passengers and staff in planes and other means of transport.
The German move comes days after Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez said international tourism would be allowed to restart from July and urged Spaniards to plan for their summer vacations. Greece and Italy will reopen to foreign visitors next month.
It is unclear, however, whether British tourists will be able to benefit from the opening up of the European tourist sector. Matt Hancock, the UK health secretary, recently warned that international holidays this year were “unlikely”.
Airlines and airports have warned the British government that its plans to introduce a 14-day quarantine for people arriving in the UK will in effect kill any hopes of a resumption of international travel.