Should Germany impose border controls as Covid-19 rates rise across Europe?

A debate over tightening border controls in Germany has been sparked as countries, including Austria and the Czech Republic, battle with increasing coronavirus infections.

Should Germany impose border controls as Covid-19 rates rise across Europe?
Police at a border checkpoint in Bavaria near the Austrian border in March 2020. Photo: DPA

Back in spring during the first peak of the crisis, Germany hastily introduced border controls as countries around Europe battled to get the number of Covid-19 infections under control.

However, it resulted in long queues and chaos at border crossings. Now as a resurgence of coronavirus intensifies, there is disagreement about reintroducing tougher border controls – even within political parties, such as the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU).

In view of the worsening situation in Europe, Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann believes it is necessary to talk about border controls again.

“The discussion about intensified border controls could flare up again if the incidence of infection in neighbouring countries gets out of control,” the CSU politician told the newspapers in the Funke Media Group on Tuesday.

“At the same time, we are keeping an eye on the close economic relations where there is regular commuting workers, for example with the Czech Republic and Austria”.

In Austria the number of new infections is going up rapidly, resulting in tougher coronavirus regulations and a local lockdown in Kuchl, near the German border.  A lockdown was also being introduced on Tuesday in nearby Berchtesgadener Land in southern Bavaria.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Austria's lockdown measures

Bavarian state premier Markus Söder said one of the reasons for the outbreak in the Berchtesgaden area was because of its close proximity to hotspots in Austria.

However, if border controls are put in place it will hit the Austrian tourism industry hard.

Meanwhile, most other European countries, including neighbouring Czech Republic, Poland, Switzerland and France, are also battling rising coronavirus infections.

'Renewed internal border controls must be avoided'

In contrast to Herrmann, the State Secretary in the federal Interior Ministry Stephan Mayer, rejected the idea of renewed border closures.

When asked whether border closures could be introduced again due to rising coronavirus cases, the CSU politician told the Passauer Neue Presse: “No. The situation in mid-March 2020 was characterised by great uncertainty in Europe and worldwide in dealing with the virus.”

In spring there were no regional anti-corona restrictions yet, he added. “Renewed internal border controls in the wake of the pandemic must therefore be avoided,” said Mayer. However, the federal government said it was observing the development “with great attention”.

Recently, federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) warned against renewed border closures in the wake of the pandemic. In spring of this year “there were bad experiences after closing borders too fast”, he said.

Among the issues when borders were closed or partially shut in Germany, were long traffic jams, particularly affecting commuters and delivery drivers.

People also had to carry exit certificates and proof of where they worked or lived. Unmarried couples and families were separated for weeks. It was only in mid-June that the rules for entering the country were relaxed again.


Border controls – (die) Grenzkontrollen

Hastily or urgently – eilig

Flare up – aufflammen

Commuters – (die) Pendler (or der Pendler for commuter)

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.


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Explore Austria: Mauer, a charming wine-hiking spot on Vienna’s outskirts

Catch the very tail-end of the wine season and autumn foliage in one of the lesser-explored corners of the Austrian capital: Mauer.

Explore Austria: Mauer, a charming wine-hiking spot on Vienna’s outskirts
Beautiful views and cosy taverns await you on the edge of Vienna. Photo: Catherine Edwards

Wine-hiking is an autumn must-do in Austria, and although the official Wine Hiking Day (Weinwandertag) that usually draws crowds has been cancelled two years in a row during the pandemic, it’s possible to follow the routes through beautiful scenery and wine taverns on your own.

Mauer in the southwest of Vienna is one of the routes that is mostly frequented by locals.

The footpath takes you through scenic vineyards. Photo: Catherine Edwards

You can reach this part of the 23rd district using Vienna’s public transport, and you have a few options. From the Hietzing station on the U4 line, you can take the tramline 60 or bus 56A. The former will take you either to Mauer’s central square or you can get off earlier at Franz-Asenbauer-Gasse to start the hike. If it’s too early in the day for wine just yet, you could start your day at the small and charming Designo cafe (Geßlgasse 6).

Otherwise, the residential area itself doesn’t have much to see, but keep an eye out as you wander between the taverns later — there are some beautiful buildings.

To start the hike, head west along Franz-Asenbauer Gasse, which will take you up into the vineyards, growing some red wine and Vienna’s specialty Gemischter Satz or ‘field blend’, which as the name suggests is a mixture of different types of grapes.

Photo: Catherine Edwards

The paved road takes a left turn, but the hiking route follows a smaller path further upwards. Here you’ll have magnificent views over the whole of Vienna.

If you stick to the official hiking route (see a map from Weinwandern here) you can keep the whole route under 5 kilometres. But more adventurous types don’t need to feel limited.

You can also follow the Stadtwanderweg 6 route (see a map here) either in full, which will add on a hefty 13 kilometres, or just in part, and venture further into the Mauerwald. If you do this, one spot to aim for is the Schießstätte, a former hunting lodge offering hearty Austrian meals.


In any case, you should definitely take a small detour to see the Wotrubakirche, an example of brutalist architecture from the mid-1970s built on a site that was used as a barracks during the Second World War.

Not far from the church is the Pappelteich, a small pond that is not only an important habitat for local flora and fauna, but a popular picnic spot for hikers. Its only water supply is from the rain, and due to climate change the pond has almost dried out in recent years, prompting the city to take action to boost its water supply by adding a permanent pipe.

The church is made up of over 150 concrete blocks. Photo: Catherine Edwards

What you really come to Mauer for, though, are the Heuriger or Viennese wine taverns. 

The most well-known is Edlmoser (Maurer Lange Gasse 123) which has previously been named as the best in Vienna. Note that it’s not open all year so check the website, but in 2021 it should be open between November 5th and 21st, and is also serving the goose that is a popular feature on Viennese menus this time of year.

Tip for translating Heuriger opening times: look for the word ausg’steckt, which is used by those taverns which aren’t open year round. They will also often show that they’re open by attaching a bunch of green twigs to the sign or front door.

Buschenschank Grausenburger. Photo: Catherine Edwards

Also worth visiting are cosy Buschenschank Grausenburger (Maurer Lange Gasse 101a), Heuriger Wiltschko (Wittgensteinstrasse 143 — located near the start of the hiking route, this is a good place to begin your tour) and Heuriger Fuchs-Steinklammer (Jesuitensteig 28).