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Sunday Jun 21 2020

Spain reopens border with France as last of its strict coronavirus restrictions eases

A woman wearing a face mask poses for a photo in front of the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona on June 19, 2020. — AFP/Lluis Gene

LA JONQUERA: Spain has reopened its border with France on Sunday as all of its strict coronavirus restrictions introduced in March were eased. Now traffic is flowing freely again across the border between the two countries.  

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced earlier this month that Madrid would remove border checks with most of its EU member partner states from June 21 as efforts to control the pandemic appeared to be working.

Spain has been one of the worst affected countries, suffering more than 28,000 deaths and nearly 300,000 cases, with its economy and especially the key tourist industry devastated.

Madrid, the capital, and the Barcelona and the Catalan region, were very badly hit and remained longer under tighter restrictions than elsewhere.

On Sunday, AFP reporters at the Perthus crossing near the eastern end of the border saw cars crossing both ways every two or three minutes, with more going from Spain into France.

There were no checks from midnight and the traffic flowed freely.

The Spanish government announced Saturday that from Sunday EU member state citizens and those from the passport-free Schengen zone would be allowed freely into Spain, with no 14-day quarantines required.

Portugal has however said it will keep its border with Spain closed until July 1.

In Madrid's main Atocha railway station, Laura Garcia waited impatiently for the train taking her to Barcelona to see her fiance.

"It has been a long time since I last saw him, obviously, that is three months, a 100 days. I bought the very first ticket available so as to get there as quick as possibly," said Garcia, who was wearing a mask for travel.

In the "new normal", Spaniards will have to wear masks in enclosed spaces, maintain social distancing of 1.5 metres (five feet) while access to pools, beaches, hotels and restaurants will be limited accordingly.

About 600 health ministry staff meanwhile will monitor airports to check the personal details and temperature of arriving foreign passengers.

Doctors will examine any suspected cases.

From July 1, Spain will fully open all its borders.