Sunbathers catch the last rays of evening light, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Photo: AP)
Europeans and Americans soaked up the sun where they could Sunday, taking advantage of the first holiday weekend since coronavirus restrictions were eased, while European governments grappled with how and when to let in foreign travelers in hopes of salvaging the summer tourist season.
Beach patrols and police watched to make sure people abided by the social-distancing rules and spread out on the sand and at parks.
The US is on track to surpass 100,000 coronavirus deaths in the next few days, while Europe has seen over 169,000 dead, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
The New York Times marked the horror by devoting Sunday’s entire front page to a long list of names of those who have died in the US. The headline: “An Incalculable Loss.”
President Donald Trump played golf at one of his courses during the Memorial Day weekend — the unofficial start of summer — as he urged states to ease their lockdowns.
Across Europe, a mishmash of travel restrictions appears to be on the horizon, often depending on what passports visitors carry. Germany, France, and other European countries aim to open their borders for European travel in mid-June. But it isn’t clear when intercontinental travel will resume.
Spain, one of the hardest-hit countries and also one of the world’s top destinations for international travelers, says it won’t reopen for foreign tourists until July. To boost the economy, the country’s leader has encouraged Spaniards to start planning their vacations for late June inside Spain.
“Come July, we will allow the arrival of foreign tourists to Spain under safe conditions,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said. “We will guarantee that tourists are not at risk and that they don’t represent a risk” to Spain.
In Germany, domestic tourists will be allowed to return Monday to the country’s Baltic Sea coast and to hotels in Berlin.
But tourism campaigns will require a new approach.
“We don’t think people want closely packed big-city bustle at the moment,” Burkhard Kieker, the chief of visitBerlin, told RBB Info radio. His agency has launched a campaign showing “how much green space and how much water there is” in Berlin.
In France, families flocked to the beach at La Grande Motte on the Mediterranean, swimming and sunbathing with 8-square-meter (86-square-foot) spaces marked off with ropes and wooden stakes to keep people apart. Reservations were required, and there was already a two-day waiting list.
Other beaches in France have also reopened, but only for exercise, with visitors not allowed to sit or lie down.
In Paris, where all city parks remain closed, locals soaked up the sun along the embankments of the Seine River and lounged on ledges outside the Tuileries Gardens. In some spots, people sat safely spaced apart. Elsewhere, groups of maskless teens crowded together, shrugging off the rules.
Beginning Monday, France is relaxing its border restrictions, allowing in migrant workers and family visitors from other European countries. But it is calling for a voluntary 14-day quarantine for people arriving from Britain and Spain because those countries imposed a similar requirement on the French.
Italy, which plans to open regional and international borders on June 3 in a bid to boost tourism, is only now allowing locals back to beaches in their own regions — with restrictions.
In the northwestern Liguria region, people were allowed a dip in the sea and a walk along the shore, but no sunbathing. In Savona, a dozen people were fined for violating sunbathing bans. Rimini, on Italy’s east coast, attracted beach-goers beginning at dawn, and many sat in widely spaced groups. Still, authorities had to work at enforcing distancing on a popular beach in Palermo.
”We cannot forget that the virus exists and is circulating,” Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri told Sky TG24. “Even if the numbers of new cases are low, we must respect the rules.”
For the first time in months, the faithful gathered in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square for the traditional Sunday papal blessing, but they kept their distance from one another. Some 2,000 Muslims gathered for Eid al-Fitr prayers at a sports complex in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret, spaced 1 meter apart and wearing masks.
Beachside communities in England urged Londoners and others to stay away after rules were eased to allow people to drive any distance for exercise or recreation. The southern coastal city of Brighton said: “Wish you were here — but not just yet.” Wales kept up its “Later” tourism campaign, reminding people that its hotels, restaurants and tourist sites are still closed.
In the US, restrictions have been eased state by state, though hundreds of people are still dying from COVID-19 every day. New Orleans stirred back to life as some of its famed restaurants and businesses opened for the first time in over two months. In California, where many businesses and recreational activities are reopening, officials in Los Angeles County said they will maintain tight restrictions until July 4.
New York state on Sunday reported its lowest number of daily coronavirus deaths — 84 — in many weeks in what Gov. Andrew Cuomo described as a critical benchmark.
Worldwide, more than 5.3 million people have been infected and 342,000 have died, according to the Johns Hopkins tally that experts say undercounts the true toll.