A family gathering near a cable barrier along the border between Canada and the United States

Viewed from the proverbial (and literal) 30,000 feet, the most stunning consequence of the coronavirus pandemic may have been the sudden closing of national borders. In an increasingly open world, the past six months of severe international travel restrictions continues to disrupt lives and hobble the global economy.

Last week, the six-months-long closure of the world's longest land border, between the United States and Canada, to "discretionary" travel was extended to at least until Oct. 21. Leaders of these two neighbors face the same impossible dilemma as other countries pondering the reopening of their borders, between saving lives and saving the economy.

Tanking tourism: Morocco implemented one of the world's strictest border lockdowns, keeping its borders closed since mid-March and only allowing the initially trapped tourists to leave the country and stranded citizens to come back in July. But the country's economy has been dealt a serious blow, especially its tourism industry, which accounts for 7% of its GDP.

Controls at the Austrian-Hungarian border — Photo: Frank Hoermann/DPA/ZUMA

Europe's uncertainty: As soon as coronavirus cases were climbing again at the end of August, several European countries started to either reintroduce restrictions and quarantine measures or to close their borders again — despite German chancellor Angela Merkel warning Europe must avoid closing borders again "at any cost."

  • On Sept. 1, Hungary decided to close its borders to foreigners without consulting any other EU members, while Finland imposed Europe's "tightest" border restrictions and several countries added others in their unsafe travel list. This came with short notice for travellers and holidaymakers who were forced to either postpone, shorten or cancel their trips altogether.

  • But this lack of coordination could have far worse consequences in the long run and not just for travellers, but also for cross-border and seasonal workers, students, or families and couples, and on the European economic and cultural life. That is why 71 lawmakers from the European Parliament wrote an open letter, calling EU member states to come "to an agreement on common sanitary measures in Schengen," after witnessing this summer "the chaos at the internal borders of the EU."

  • The European Commission is currently testing coronavirus contacts-tracing apps that would interoperate across the bloc. But that might not be enough to ensure one country or the other will not close its borders.

Canada's problematic neighbor: Despite economic pressure, others are not so keen to reopen their borders, fearing the free flow of population might result in a resurgence of cases.

  • This is the case for Canada, as its neighbor, the United States is registering the highest number of cases in the world with over 6.9 million infections and highest number of deaths with over 200,000 fatalities.

  • Some border city mayors prefer the border to stay closed for a longer period of time. Mayor Mike Bradley of Sarnia, Ontario, which borders the U.S. state of Michigan, pleaded to Canadian officials on CTV News: "Just don't open it back up again .. if it backfired we'd have to close it again. And that's the worst thing you can do, give us freedom and then take it away."

  • On the other hand, U.S. President Donald Trump said the border would open "pretty soon", adding that "Canada would like it opened." But a survey conducted earlier this month revealed that 90% of Canadians want to keep the strict border restrictions in place, The Toronto Star reports.

The land border between Canada and the United States was closed to all non-essential travel in March 2020 — Photo: Liang Sen/Xinhua/ZUMA

Real costs Down Under: The consequences of closing borders within the countries themselves are very real too. Australia has closed its international borders to anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident since March, but the closing of its internal borders this summer and difference of restrictions between states has also divided the country in an unprecedented manner and created vivid tensions.

  • "So it's not like "Oh we put the border up, everything's OK and everybody's protected," no — there are real costs to that too" Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Sky News. He has pressed states to reopen by Christmas, as anti-lockdown protests erupted in Victoria, the epicentre of the country's latest wave of cases, at the beginning of September.

  • The national daily The Australian called Queensland border rules "horrendously cruel" as requests for exemptions to attend funerals were denied while the country's PM said his office has been swamped with letters from Australians with "heartbreaking" stories of citizens being denied medical care and other vital services.

  • Some states are currently starting to ease restrictions: South Australia is reopening its borders with New South Wales this week, after the latter registered no new cases in two weeks. "A victory for clear, evidence-based policy in the sometimes emotional debate about the role state borders should play in controlling COVID-19", stated The Sydney Morning Herald, which accused other states of adopting "less transparent and evidence-based approach", such as Western Australia, which has refused to disclose any date for reopening.

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La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

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