PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria could open their mutual borders as soon as June 8, allowing residents of the three countries to travel between them, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Wednesday.
Babis said the neighbours were thinking about how to open their borders at the start of the summer tourist season after making similar progress in controlling the coronavirus pandemic. Measures to stop the virus spreading have stalled economic activity worldwide.
“I think it could somehow work out that on June 8 or 15, our three countries would open together,” Babis said in online interview at blesk.cz news website.
The three are among at least 17 members of the “Schengen” area, where borders are normally invisible between 26 EU and other European countries, to impose emergency controls since March to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Babis said negotiations were not currently underway with Germany, the Czech Republic’s biggest trading partner, to lift travel restrictions because the coronavirus situation there was not as stable as in its other neighbours.
The European Union pushed on Wednesday for a safe reopening of borders, while insisting on protective measures such as masks on planes, to try to salvage the lucrative summer season for the ravaged tourism sector as coronavirus infections recede.
Nearly all travel has been halted in Europe, a devastating blow for tourism, which normally contributes almost one-tenth of the EU’s economic output.
The Czech Republic, which had reported 8,223 cases of coronavirus as of Wednesday morning with 284 deaths, has eased restrictions in recent weeks to allow travel across the border under certain conditions.
This includes EU business travellers and students as well as some non-EU citizens for seasonal and healthcare work.
(Reporting by Robert Muller, Editing by Michael Kahn and Catherine Evans)