European Union flag over central Europe via iStock / pawel.gaul

EU state borders should only open for tourists only if strict criteria are met, says WHO

European countries that would like to open their borders for tourists this summer should do it step by step and meet a number of strict criteria, says Hans Kluge

Copenhagen/Prague, April 23 (CTK) – European countries that would like to open their borders for tourists this summer, should do it step by step and meet a number of strict criteria, World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge told CTK during an online press conference today.

One of the main criteria is whether the given countries have the COVID-19 epidemic under control, he said. These countries should have free capacities in hospitals for a possible rise in new coronavirus cases and be able to keep its citizens well informed, he added.

Kluge called on countries to invest more in care homes and other facilities for the elderly.

Half of the people in Europe whose deaths are related to coronavirus died in care homes for old and disabled people, he said, adding that this is an unimaginable human tragedy. He said many clients of care homes have a big chance to recover from COVID-19 if their treatment is good, but long-term care was notoriously neglected across the European region.

Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtěch (for ANO) said last week that Czech tourists might go to selected countries with a low risk of coronavirus infection this summer season. He said the country is negotiating about this with Croatia and Slovakia.

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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Tuesday that his government is negotiating with Germany and the Czech Republic about the opening of the border for tourists.

Kluge said it is too early to say how the summer would look like, but any loosening of the restrictive measures concerning borders should be gradual.

The worst enemy would be too much self-satisfaction, he said, indicating that it would be an illusion to think that the threat is over.

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Kluge said it is clear already now that Europe will face a second wave of the epidemic. Countries should get ready for the worst possible scenarios in the time between the waves.

He pointed out that nearly half of the COVID-19 cases in the world are in the European region, into which he included Turkey, Russia and Central Asia. He said the situation is improving in Spain, but the increase in the number of new cases is alarming in the eastern part of the region – in Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Belarus.

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