Roundup: Patchwork COVID-19 policies in EU spark worries, though border towns may benefit

Source: Xinhua| 2021-08-20 11:14:56|Editor: huaxia

ROME, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- Responses to the COVID-19 Delta variant have varied in strictness from country to country in the European Union (EU), sparking an economic boom in border towns with more relaxed policies, while likely to quicken the spread of the virus.

Health restrictions are strong and strictly enforced in France and Germany, but are relatively limited in countries including Spain, Belgium, and Italy, which may attract customers.

In Saint-Jans-Cappel, France, where proof of vaccination is required in restaurants and bars, and on long-distance trains and flights, restaurants are nearly empty, while across the border in Heuvelland, Belgium, where health rules remain relatively relaxed, eateries are bustling, with many customers from France.

"Since the health rules went into effect (on) Aug. 9, we have very few customers," said Duyck Benedicte, a Saint-Jans-Cappel restauranteur. "They prefer to eat in Belgium and be peaceful, without presenting a health pass."

"We have seen the flow of customers in our restaurants increase by about a third" since the health restrictions started, said Zheng Guodong, owner of a Chinese restaurant in Mouscron, a Belgian city adjacent to the country's border with France.

"Things are better," said Antonio Ricci, manager of a restaurant outside San Remo, an Italian city on the Mediterranean coast that France and Italy share. "Let's just say I have started printing a lot more French-language menus than I did in the past."

The restrictions in France sparked rounds of protests involving more than 200,000 people.

Germany, which has seen infection rates climb from mid-July, was prompted to require anyone except children under the age of 12 entering the country without proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to provide a negative test result from Aug. 1.

The imbalance has aroused worries that the 26-year-old terms of the Schengen Agreement that abolished most internal EU border checks as a way to encourage the free movement of labor and capital -- one of the central principles of the EU -- could be counter-productive in containing the virus.

The cross-border movement in the EU is "less than ideal" considering the 27-nation bloc's efforts to curb the spread of the virus, said Fabrizio Pregliasco, director of Milan's Galeazzi Institute of Hospitalization and Scientific Care, calling it an "inevitable question of practicality" that health officials have to deal with.

"Until there is a uniform health policy across the EU we are going to see these kinds of discrepancies, and open borders mean people will take advantage of them," Pregliasco told Xinhua.

"This kind of situation could be a factor in the spread of the virus, and local health officials in border areas will have to take the steps necessary to address problems that arise," he said. Enditem