Border restrictions tighten as Austria loosens lockdown

Border restrictions tighten as Austria loosens lockdown
A police officer at the Austrian-German border. Photo: Christof STACHE / AFP
As Austria loosens its lockdown, opening schools, museums, hairdressers, shops and beauticians, borders are being tightened with its neighbouring countries.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer announced “massively” tightened controls on Sunday, saying travel movements have to be reduced to the absolute minimum”. 

In Austria new entry regulations will come into force on Wednesday. In principle, with a few exceptions, travellers are required to test, quarantine and register.

READ MORE: Austria to tighten coronavirus quarantine 

Affected persons must register in advance, carry a negative antigen or PCR test result and quarantine ten days after entering the country. It is possible to test out of quarantine from the fifth day. 

Cross-border commuters to Austria, for whom there were previously exceptions, will also have to be tested regularly starting next week and register  online once a week.

Registration is mandatory from February 10th, but has been possible since February 7th.

Patrols along Austria's borders are set to be increased. 

Austria shares borders with Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia.

Criticism in Germany

The loosening of restrictions in Austria has already been met with criticism from Germany, particularly in regions which border the alpine state.

CSU General Secretary Markus Blume told BILD am Sonntag that Austria and the Czech Republic were “endangering” Germany’s successes by easing its corona restrictions despite infections remaining at around 100 per 100,000 people and the recently recorded British and South African mutations of the virus. 

Blume called for more controls by the federal police at all of Germany’s external borders in his Bild interview, and said if, for example, the Czech Republic and Tyrol had virus mutations, the borders would have to be sealed off. 

He said: “We don't want a second Ischgl effect for all of Europe!”

READ MORE: How Austria's Ischgl ski resort 'mishandled coronavirus outbreak'

NordBayern newspaper reports Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Söder told the CDU state party conference in Hildesheim, Lower Saxony on Saturday that relaxing Austria’s coronavirus rules could be “dangerous”.

Bavaria's Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told the Münchner Merkur he supported tighter borders with Austria, and said borders between the Czech Republic and Austria should be “very closely” monitored. 

Bavaria currently has strict corona rules in place, according to which shopping tours and skiing in neighbouring countries are prohibited. 

A second Ischgl?

Almost exactly one year ago, the Tyrolean ski resort of Ischgl became a coronavirus hotspot, which allowed the virus to spread all over Europe as skiers returned from their holidays. 

In recent weeks, the South African variant of the coronavirus with additional mutations has also been found in Tyrol.

There have been calls for the ski lifts to be closed and for the area to be sealed off.

However, no decision has been reached as to whether Tyrol will face more stringent measures because of the mutated virus or not.

The latest figures show infection numbers are falling in Tyrol, despite the new variant discovered there.

 

 


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