Portugal is one of the few countries re-opening to tourists… well, most tourists.
Largely Unaffected By Coronavirus
By in large, Portugal was largely unaffected by coronavirus. Neighbors Italy, Spain and France didn’t fare as well. Italy was known as the epicenter of COVID-19 in Europe and at one point had the most cases outside of China. Spain and France have also had large outbreaks but by comparison, Portugal had just under 32,000 confirmed cases and just under 1,400 deaths.
Portugal Welcomes Most Tourists
While Portugal welcomes just about everyone back to the country, Spain is closed by land border for a few more weeks. Spaniards will have land access from June 15th. TAP Portugal has already opened flights to London and Paris, EasyJet has also resumed flying to a limited number of European cities.
Brazil has already been welcomed back to the western Iberian peninsula despite one of the world’s highest cases of coronavirus outbreaks and still rising numbers. Visitors from the United States are also welcome, home to the most confirmed cases of the disease.
Spain is (as of Friday morning) fourth on the list but just a few thousand cases behind Italy, though Portugal and Spain share a significant land border. France and Germany fall directly behind Portugal respectively.
What Could This Mean For the Rest of Europe?
Europe faces a unique challenge with traditionally open borders between countries, land access for visitors driving between the countries, extensive rail service, and frequent flights from within the continent and beyond. What made Portugal’s exposure different from nearby Spain and France?
The land that connects them could be considered a larger challenge than outsiders arriving a few hundred at a time from the outside. It suggests to me that the permeability of European borders is part of the challenge. Students, business people, and tourists crossing borders at whim is a concern.
What speaks to broader implication is the ability for European Union members to pick and choose which neighboring countries they will and will not accept. One reason Italians are able to visit Portugal (more cases than Spain) could be due to the timing of those cases. Italy was the second country to experience significant and severe cases but is ready to open next week. Spain was later to the crisis and therefore, it may hold safety concerns for a safe re-opening.
Could others open selectively with respect to other European Union members?
Portugal navigated coronavirus better than its peers and is ready to re-open, something that should be celebrated. The implications of to whom and when the nation re-opens lingers and Spain is currently excluded from that list. Other nations within the European Union may follow suit or set their own course.
What do you think? Should Portugal keep its border with Spain closed longer? Should they exclude other nations that pose a higher risk? Should EU nations open to some but not all within the region?