CORFU (AFP) – The European Union reopened its borders on Wednesday to visitors from 15 countries but excluded the United States, where deaths are spiking once again and a top health official warned the country was heading in the “wrong direction”.
The final list of nations safe enough to allow residents to enter the EU did not include Russia, Brazil or the US, where the daily death toll passed 1,000 on Tuesday for the first time since June 10.
US infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci said the United States could see 100,000 cases a day if the current trend continued, and several US states imposed 14-day quarantines on travellers from other states.
The EU hopes relaxing restrictions on countries from Algeria to Uruguay will breathe life into its tourism sector, which has been choked by a ban on non-essential travel since mid-March.
Travellers from China, where the virus first emerged late last year, will be allowed to enter the bloc only if Beijing reciprocates and opens the door to EU residents.
However, with over 10 million known infections worldwide and more than 500,000 deaths, the pandemic is “not even close to being over”, the World Health Organization has warned.
‘The first tourist’
Greece, which has suffered fewer than 200 virus deaths, has seen its economy hit hard by lockdowns and travel restrictions — all but ending its lucrative tourism season before it began.
On Wednesday, hoteliers, restaurateurs and other business owners were nervously waiting for the return of mass tourism, particularly in island resorts.
Romanian Cojan Dragos was “the first tourist” in one Corfu hotel. He drove with his wife and daughter and told AFP: “We have the whole hotel just for us.”
“It’s empty, there’s not a single tourist, the restaurants, the shops are closed, it’s sad,” he said, hoping for some excitement when other tourists arrive.
Russians will be absent from Europe’s tourist hot-spots as they have not been included in the list of approved countries.
The country was, however, enjoying a public holiday Wednesday as it voted in a referendum expected to approve consitutional changes allowing President Vladimir Putin to stay in power for another 16 years.
Putin was forced to postpone the vote in April as his government tackled an outbreak that has infected almost 650,000 people — the third-highest in the world.
In countries with less severe outbreaks, isolated clusters are still causing problems.
The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia has extended a lockdown on a district hit hard by a slaughterhouse outbreak and the British city of Leicester has also been locked down again.
A spike in cases in parts of the Australian city of Melbourne spurred new stay-at-home measures affecting some 300,000 people.
But in the Chinese capital, officials lifted several local lockdowns and reporting just three new cases following a cluster of a few hundred cases in recent weeks.
Spiking in Americas
In the US, Fauci, a member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, warned Congress Tuesday that officials were “not in total control right now” and the country was going in “the wrong direction”.
“I would not be surprised if it goes up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around,” he said.
Spikes in Texas and Florida are driving the national increase and need to be tamped down quickly, Fauci said.
Texas alone reported 6,975 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, its highest tally yet in an outbreak that has killed some 127,000 people nationwide — one-quarter of the global total.
The Pan American Health Organization warned, meanwhile, that the death toll in Latin America and the Caribbean could quadruple to more than 400,000 by October without stricter public health measures.
The financial world continues to reel from the disease’s impact, with travel restrictions tearing through the aviation industry in particular.
European aircraft maker Airbus said it was planning to cut around 15,000 jobs worldwide, 11 percent of its total workforce.
Britain, home to Europe’s deadliest outbreak, has already seen its sharpest quarterly GDP contraction in 40 years, shrinking 2.2 percent from January-March.
Economists are predicting a double-digit slump in output during the second quarter, tipping Britain into a recession.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised an “infrastructure revolution” to help the country out of the economic downturn but critics dismissed the plan as a rehash of previous pledges.
Around the world, sporting events continued to fall off the calendar, including the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and the remainder of this year’s World Rugby Sevens Series.
However, China announced its domestic football competition would resume on July 25 after a five-month delay.
And while lockdown measures have been a disaster for many, some have welcomed the chance to spend more quality time with hard-working partners.
“Maybe it was because we were healthier and not exhausted anymore, and we had lots of quality time together at home,” said Indonesian Novarina, who is pregnant with her first child after two years of trying.
“My husband and I joke that this is a corona baby.”