MADRID

The most difficult area to manage in the wake of COVID-19 crisis is tourism in Spain, said a senior government official on Wednesday.

“We support the gradual initiation of tourism if the epidemic is brought under control and the safety of tourists is ensured,” said the official speaking to foreign press members about the coronavirus crisis in the country.

Tourism is one of the most difficult problems that they have to face during the COVID-19 crisis, the government official stressed, and added that it is early to give a date about when the tourism industry will start again.

Spain hosted 84 million tourists last year and tourism is hugely important for the Spanish economy, noted the official.

For the moment, the only thing that applies to every country is to ensure the safety of tourists, and countries should work together to achieve this, he said, adding that Spain is working on it with the EU partners.

German citizens’ demands on spending summer at their homes in the Balearic Islands, the least virus-affected area in Spain, have been under evaluation said the official. But the borders can only be opened after ensuring the health safety is guaranteed.

Referring to the gradual normalization calendar that the Spanish government announced, the official said country’s plan is different from that of France and Italy because Spain did not want to limit the process to a specific date.

“Gradual normalcy is not a mechanical process for us. It is more important for us to act according to the criteria appropriate for the level of normalization, regardless of date. We can say that it [Spain’s plan] is closer to the plan of South Korea.”

Meanwhile, the official also commented on some of the accusations against China on hiding the outbreak when it first appeared in Wuhan.

“We don’t want politicization of the COVID-19 crisis. Of course, when the pandemic is overcome, the reasons for this should be investigated with all its dimensions. But we should do this to prevent the pandemic from reemerging, to learn from our experiences, not to make the same mistakes and to be prepared.”

Turkey-EU relations

On the Turkey and EU relations, the official said it is a very rich, but also a very complicated one.

There are also some problems like Syria, Libya and migrants, noted the official, adding that these problems should be solved through dialogue and mutual understanding.

“Spain is in favor of dialogue and understanding that refrain from a unilateral vision for both Turkey and the EU.”

On Tuesday night, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced his government’s plan to gradually ease some of the world’s strictest lockdown measures.

Most of Spain will officially enter phase zero on May 4, which will allow for individual outdoor sports activities and some small businesses to begin limited activity. Four Spanish islands will move directly into phase one. 

Spread of virus

Spain reported 325 more deaths from coronavirus on Wednesday, and the toll rose to 24,275.

After originating in China last December, COVID-19 has spread to at least 185 countries and regions. Europe and the US are currently the worst-hit regions.

The pandemic has killed nearly 218,400 worldwide, with 3.13 million infections, while more than 947,500 patients have recovered, according to figures compiled by the US-based Johns Hopkins University.

* Writing by Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak in Ankara.

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