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Spain reopens border with France as country further eases Covid-19 restrictions

People walk on the Santiago bridge over the Bidasoa river separating Spain and France as Spain reopens its borders to most European visitors in Irun, Spain on June 21, 2020.
People walk on the Santiago bridge over the Bidasoa river separating Spain and France as Spain reopens its borders to most European visitors in Irun, Spain on June 21, 2020. © Vincent West, Reuters

Traffic flowed again across Spain's border with France on Sunday as the last of the strict Spanish coronavirus restrictions introduced in March were eased.

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Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced earlier this month that Madrid would remove border checks with most other EU states from June 21, when its state of emergency also ended.

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

"This morning I was the first customer in the Spanish shop where I usually go but there was soon about 10 people behind me," said Daniel Angel-Nielleville, a French pensioner who lives in Perpignan near the border but shops in Spain, where it is cheaper.

Opening its borders, Spain hopes to salvage part of vital tourist season

Madrid and Barcelona and their respective regions were badly hit and remained under the tightest restrictions for longer 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.

Spaniards allowed to leave home regions

The Spanish government announced on 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.

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

With the state of emergency lifted, Spaniards were also allowed to travel outside their home region for the first time since the lockdown was imposed on March 14.

"I am a little afraid to travel, I remain cautious," said Alba Bartolome, 22, who was waiting for a train to Murcia from Madrid's main Atocha station.

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.

'We are still vulnerable'

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.

Sanchez had warned Spaniards on Saturday not to let their guard down.

"We are still vulnerable. We have to be careful and follow strictly the health measures," he said.

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

(AFP)

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