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New entry restrictions causing chaos at Germany's borders

New entry restrictions causing chaos at Germany's borders

New entry restrictions causing chaos at Germany's borders

As of Sunday, tough entry restrictions have been in place at Germany’s borders with the Czech Republic and the Austrian province of Tyrol - but the new rules are still causing much confusion. The German federal police says its officers are being stretched thin, while logistics companies are warning that freight transport is being disrupted. 

New controls on German borders with Austria & Czech Republic

Germany partially closed its borders with the Czech Republic and Austria on Sunday, in a bid to slow the spread of highly-contagious mutations of COVID-19, cases of which are surging in these regions. 

Under the new rules, only those with German citizenship or residency in Germany are allowed to enter from the affected regions. Exceptions are being made for key workers like doctors, nurses and carers, truck drivers and seasonal agricultural workers. However, in order to enter, you must register via an online portal and present a negative coronavirus test taken within the last 48 hours. 

This is the first time the ban on travel from so-called virus variant areas has applied to countries that have a land border with Germany. Other countries, such as the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Brazil and Portugal, have been designated areas of concern since mid-January. As of February 14, the Robert Koch Institute has added Slovakia, as well as the Czech Republic and the Austrian province of Tyrol, to its list of virus variant areas

Airlines, bus operators and railways are not allowed to transport passengers from these countries to Germany, unless they fall under the exemption rules. The regulation will initially apply until Wednesday, February 17, but is very likely to be extended. 

Six-hour wait times at border crossings

The speed at which the new restrictions were introduced has, unsurprisingly, made for much confusion and disruption at Germany’s affected borders, with many people complaining that they were unaware of the new rules regarding coronavirus testing and quarantining. 

On Monday morning, a kilometre-long traffic jam formed on the highway 17 from Prague to Dresden, while a queue of trucks, more than 20 kilometres long, formed on the E50 / D5 in the direction of Nuremberg. By Monday afternoon, the federal police reported that they had turned back 5.000 people at the border within 30 hours. A spokesperson said on Monday that the waiting time to cross the border was around six hours. 

Concern that restrictions could damage European supply chains

The German Association of Freight Forwarders and Logistics (DSLV) warned on Monday that the new hurdles to entry threaten to disrupt supply chains and damage German industry. They have demanded that restrictions be lifted for freight vehicles, since they argue that truck drivers, isolated in their cabs, pose little to no infection risk. 

General Manager Joachim Lang said that the border closings were causing “chaotic conditions that lead to great uncertainty among companies with regard to their supply situation and staff availability.” He added, “There is a great danger that supply chains will break down all over Europe in the next few days.” 

Effective border controls?

At the same time, reports from within the federal police have cast doubt on how effective the border controls will actually be at keeping out contagious virus variants. The Federal Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, had said that “tough controls” would be imposed unilaterally, but the picture being drawn by the police is much more patchy. The federal government has sent in 1.000 additional officers, but police argue this is not sufficient to actually seal the borders. 

In reality, many crossings are only temporarily controlled - for instance, only manned during the daytime, or left unguarded for hours at a time during staff changeovers. At smaller crossings, only spot checks are in place. The head of the Police Union GdP, Andreas Roßkopf, said: “Closing it 100 percent: we definitely can’t do that.”  

Abi

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Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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