Thursday, November 26, 2020

June 14, 2020 BERLIN (AP) — Europe is taking a big step toward a new normality as many countries open borders to fellow Europeans after three months of coronavirus lockdowns — but even though Europeans love their summer vacations, it’s not clear how many are ready to travel again. Tourists from the U.S., Asia, Latin America and the Middle East will just have to wait for now. Europe is expected to start opening up to some visitors from elsewhere next month, but details remain unclear.

The European Union home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, told member nations last week that they “should open up as soon as possible” and suggested Monday was a good date.

Many countries are doing just that, allowing travel from the EU, Britain and the rest of Europe’s usually passport-free Schengen travel area, which includes non-EU countries like Switzerland.

Europe’s reopening won’t be a repeat of the chaotic free-for-all in March when panicked, uncoordinated border closures caused traffic jams that stretched for miles. Still, it’s a complicated, shifting patchwork of different rules. And although tourist regions are desperately counting on them, a lot of Europeans may decide to stay close to home this summer.

That’s something tourism-dependent Mediterranean countries such as Greece are keen to avoid. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis acknowledged Saturday that “a lot will depend on whether people feel comfortable to travel and whether we can project Greece as a safe destination.”

Greece has emphasized its handling of its outbreak, which saw only 183 deaths. Overall, Europe has seen more than 182,000 virus-linked deaths this year, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that also shows Europe has had 2.04 million of the world’s 7.8 million infections.

Hard-hit Spain, which on Sunday moved forward its opening to European travelers by 10 days to June 21, is allowing thousands of Germans to fly to its Balearic Islands for a trial run starting Monday — waiving its 14-day quarantine for the group.

“This pilot program will help us learn a lot for what lies ahead in the coming months,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said. “We want our country, which is already known as a world-class tourist destination, to be recognized as also a secure destination.”

Border checks in some places have already wound down. Italy opened its borders on June 3 and towns on the German-Polish border celebrated early Saturday as Poland opened the gates. At midnight, the mayors of Goerlitz, Germany and Zgorzelec, Poland cut through chains on a makeshift fence that had divided the towns.

Germany, like France and others, is lifting remaining border checks on Monday and scrapping a requirement that arrivals must prove they have a good reason to enter. It also is easing a worldwide warning against nonessential travel to exempt European countries – except, probably, Finland, Norway and Spain, where travel restrictions remain, and Sweden, where the level of new coronavirus infections is deemed too high.

Many German regions have reimposed a quarantine requirement for arrivals from Sweden, whose virus strategy avoided a lockdown but produced a relatively high death rate.

Czech authorities will require arrivals from Sweden to show a negative COVID-19 test or to self-quarantine – along with travelers from Portugal and Poland’s Silesia region.

Austria is opening up Tuesday to European neighbors except for Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Britain — and keeping a travel warning for Italy’s worst-hit region of Lombardy. France is asking people from Britain to self-quarantine for two weeks.

Britain recently introduced a 14-day quarantine requirement for most arrivals, to the horror of its tourism and aviation industries, which say the move will hit visits to Britain hard this summer.

Denmark is opening up only for tourists from Germany, Norway and Iceland — and only if they can prove that they’re staying for at least six nights. Norway also is keeping shut its long border with Sweden.

“I realize this is a big disappointment. But the restrictions are based on objective criteria that are the same for everyone,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said. “If we open too quickly, the infection can get out of control.”

With flights only gradually picking up, nervousness about new outbreaks abroad, uncertainty about social distancing at tourist venues and many people facing unemployment or pay cuts, this may be a good summer for domestic tourism.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz are both planning to vacation in their homelands this year.

“The recommendation is still, if you want to be really safe, a vacation in Austria,” Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told ORF television, recalling the scramble in March to bring home thousands of tourists as borders slammed shut. “In Austria, you know that you don’t have to cross a border if you want to get home, and you know the infrastructure and the health system well.”

The German government, which helped fly 240,000 people home as the pandemic grew exponentially, also has no desire to repeat that experience.

“My appeal to all those who travel: Enjoy your summer vacation — but enjoy it with caution and responsibility,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. “In the summer holidays, we want to make it as difficult as possible for the virus to spread again in Europe.”

PARIS (AP) — A Congolese activist was fined 2,000 euros ($2,320) on Wednesday for trying to take a 19th-century African funeral pole from a Paris museum in a protest against colonial-era injustice that he streamed online. A Paris court convicted Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza and two other activists of attempted theft, but the sentence stopped far short of what they potentially faced for their actions at the Quai Branly Museum: 10 years in prison and 150,000 euros in fines. Activists and defense lawyers viewed the case as a trial about how former empires should atone for past crimes. Diyabanza’s museum action took place in June, amid global protests against racial injustice and colonial-era wrongs unleashed by George Floyd’s death in the U.S. Floyd, a Black man in handcuffs, died May 25 after a white police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for several minutes while Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.

LONDON (AP) — Herbert Kretzmer, the journalist and lyricist best known for his English-language adaptation of the musical Les Miserables, has died. He was 95. His family confirmed Wednesday that Kretzmer died after a long illness with Parkinson’s disease at the London home he shared with his second wife, Sybil Sever. Tributes poured in from giants of the London stage, including theatrical producer Cameron Mackintosh, singer Elaine Paige and lyricist Tim Rice. Les Miserables producer Mackintosh said Kretzmer was instrumental in bringing Victor Hugo’s classic tale of defiance and redemption in early 19th century France to the stage in English in October 1985, five years after it had opened in Paris.

NEW YORK (AP) — Stevie Wonder released two new songs Tuesday reflecting the current times that he hopes inspires change. The piano-playing icon dropped the tracks “Where Is Our Love Song” and “Can’t Put It In the Hands of Fate,” which he also announced would be released through his new label So What the Fuss Music, distributed through Universal Music Group’s Republic Records (Wonder was signed to Motown Records for the majority of his career).

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Conchata Ferrell, who became known for her role as Berta the housekeeper on TV’s “Two and a Half Men” after a long career as a character actor on stage and in movies, including “Mystic Pizza” and ”Network,” has died. She was 77. Ferrell died Monday at Sherman Oaks Hospital in Los Angeles following cardiac arrest, according to publicist Cynthia Snyder. Ferrell soldiered through more than a decade on “Two and a Half Men,” playing opposite Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer until Sheen was fired from the sitcom for erratic behavior that included publicly insulting producer Chuck Lorre.