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World

Germany tightens borders to keep Covid variants at bay

  • He was in a hurry to enter Germany and drive through to France with his cargo.
Updated 14 Feb, 2021

KIEFERSFELDEN: Germany on Sunday implemented more measures to keep coronavirus variants at bay, banning travel from Czech border regions and Austria's Tyrol after a troubling surge in contagious mutations.

A thousand police officers have been mobilised to ensure strict border controls and state-owned rail company Deutsche Bahn suspended services to and from the affected areas.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced Thursday that the states of Bavaria and Saxony had asked the government "to class Tyrol and border regions of the Czech Republic as virus mutation areas, and to implement border controls," and that Chancellor Angela Merkel had agreed to do so from Sunday.

Germany in late January banned most travellers from countries classed as so-called mutation areas or places hardest hit by new, more contagious coronavirus variants. These include Britain, South Africa, Brazil and Portugal.

Only a handful of exceptions are allowed to enter Germany from these countries, including returning Germans and essential workers such as doctors. Trade links will also be maintained.

But even those allowed to cross the restricted border "are likely to be turned away" if they can't provide proof of a negative Covid test, warned Bavarian premier Markus Soeder, whose state borders the Tyrol.

Infection rate halved

Europe's biggest economy has halved its daily infections rate after more than two months of painful curbs that shuttered most shops, schools and restaurants.

But fears are growing that the positive trend could be compromised by travellers from border regions that are reporting sky-high case rates.

Merkel's government is in particular concerned by the South African variant circulating in Tyrol and the British variant in the Czech Republic.

On Saturday, motorists continued to cross the border into Germany before the new regulations took effect for at least 10 days.

"We are curious to know what will happen next because if we need to have a test every week, and pay for it, it would be a disaster," truck driver Milan Vaculka told AFP at the Rozvadov border post.

He was in a hurry to enter Germany and drive through to France with his cargo.

Three Czech cantons, including two on the German border, were placed under lockdown Thursday due to the prevalence of the Covid variant first discovered in Britain.

In some Bavarian border towns the British variant now accounts for half of the new Covid-19 cases.

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