Berlin has banned travellers from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and parts of Austria to protect itself from mutant coronavirus strains. Chancellor A
Berlin has banned travellers from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and parts of Austria to protect itself from mutant coronavirus strains. Chancellor Angela Merkel is increasingly fearful that more infectious variants will force her to delay reopening the country, which has been under lockdown for three and a half months. But the move has attracted criticism from across the European Union and prompted concerns that vital business networks could be disrupted.
The Federation of German Industries (BDI) has warned of the serious consequences of closing borders with the Czech Republic and Tyrol, a western Austrian state.
Its managing director Joachim Lang said: “There is a great risk that supply chains will break down all over Europe in the next few days.
He added: “Border crossings should remain open for all freight vehicles with goods.”
The BDI chief proposed introducing “practical test options across Europe” to ensure borders can remain open.
He said demanding negative tests for workers crossing the frontiers would not work without “providing adequate test infrastructures at the borders”.
Austria, which has seen itself caught up in the border closures, has warned of huge disruptions to internal travel if its border with German remains closed.
Germany has been forced to exempt commuters, freight traffic and schoolchildren from its travel ban.
New guidelines state: “Entry from Austria to Germany for the purpose of passing through German territory to Austria via the Kleines Deutsche Eck [small German corner and the Große Deutsche Eck is also permitted for the following groups of people, notwithstanding the previously communicated exceptions to the entry ban: People who are involved in the movement of goods, commuters, schoolchildren, students and trainees.”
And Austrian interior minister Karl Nehammer added: “The opening for commuters is an important and absolutely necessary step towards a practicable solution.
“I also discussed the urgency with Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and I am glad that we were able to achieve such a significant improvement here. It must be a goal to avoid chaos and ensure the security of supply.”
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz warned Berlin that its measures to curb the spread of coronavirus shouldn’t “harass” his country.
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Berlin doesn’t believe its measures can completely prevent mutant Covid strains from leaking into the country.
But it insisted it would continue to take action while more infectious variants emerge in neighbouring states.
Mrs Merkel’s spokesman said: “We have a situation in which we have to do everything necessary to prevent virus variants that are much more aggressive from bringing significantly more infections with them and from spreading just as quickly in Germany as they are regrettably spreading in neighbouring countries or in parts of neighbouring countries.”