Spain, Portugal leaders mark border reopening with pomp

From left to right: Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa, Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Spain’s King Felipe VI during a ceremony to mark the reopening of the Portugal/Spain border in Badajoz, Spain, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The border was closed for three and a half months due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

BADAJOZ, Spain (AP) — The leaders of Spain and Portugal marked the reopening of their land border Wednesday, more than three months after shutting it because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Spain’s King Felipe VI and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez met with Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Prime Minister António Costa for border ceremonies in Badajoz on the Spanish side and later in Elvas, Portugal.

Wearing masks, which they removed to hear their national anthems played, the Iberian leaders toured a Moorish fortress and museum in Badajoz before visiting a 14th-century castle in Elvas, 20 kilometers (12 miles) away. They gave no speeches.

Spain has been one of Europe’s hardest-hit countries in the pandemic, with almost 250,000 cases and more than 28,300 deaths. A strict lockdown enabled Spanish authorities to bring the outbreak under control. Over the past week it has officially recorded almost 2,000 new cases.

Portugal avoided an exponential increase in cases during April and May, but stubborn outbreaks have occurred in recent weeks after a lockdown ended and several hundred news cases have been emerging every day. It has recorded 1,576 virus-related deaths.

Most worryingly, Portuguese authorities are battling community transmission in 19 of the Lisbon metropolitan area’s 118 parishes, located north of the capital. Beginning on Wednesday, people living in those parishes must stay at home when they can and no more than five people can gather together, among other measures.

The Iberian peninsula countries agreed to close their border to traffic, except for trucks and local cross-border workers, on March 17. The land border is more than 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) long.

___

Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreakand https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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