Further easing of Madrid, Barcelona curbs

By AAP Newswire

Coronavirus lockdown restrictions in the hard-hit cities of Madrid and Barcelona will be eased further from next week, Spanish health minister Salvador Illa told a news conference on Friday.

From Monday, customers will be allowed to eat and drink inside bars and restaurants rather than just on outdoor terraces. Children will be able to play outside at any time of day, not only in dedicated timeslots.

Spain will start opening its borders to foreign tourists from July 1, government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero said on Friday, a day after a fellow minister said they would reopen in June.

On Thursday, Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said land borders would reopen from June 22, although her ministry later walked back on the statement, causing some confusion, as well as criticism in neighbouring Portugal.

Elsewhere in Europe, Poland and the Baltic states will open their borders to each other next week in an easing of travel restrictions put in place due to the pandemic, Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said on Friday after a video conference with his Polish counterpart.

The Baltic states - Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia - opened their common borders on May 15, creating the first so-called "travel bubble" within the European Union to try to jump-start economies stalled by the outbreak.

"We agreed that free movement between the Baltic states and Poland will be restored next week," Skvernelis said on his Facebook page after the talks with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

"Ministries of both countries were told to work on this as fast as possible," he added.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia each allow entry into their common travel area from most EU countries, singling out those where infection rates are deemed low enough to mitigate any risk of rekindling outbreaks that have slowed across the Baltics.

Travellers from other countries are told to self-isolate for 14 days. Travel from countries where infection rates are high, such as Sweden and Britain, remains banned.

Switzerland will end its European Union pandemic travel restrictions on June 15, the government announced on Friday.

Switzerland will also lift curbs for travellers from fellow non-EU members, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland, which form the European Free Trade Association.

The decision was taken in line with similar plans in many other European countries, the government in Bern said in a statement.

Earlier on Friday, the Czech government agreed to open its borders with neighbours Austria and Germany. Prague will also allow unrestricted travel with Hungary.

The decision follows Thursday's opening of the border with Slovakia.

And, after a public backlash, Turkey has decided not to proceed with a weekend lockdown despite a daily jump in new COVID-19 cases from around 700 to almost 1000.