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UPDATE: Germany imposes border controls with five countries due to coronavirus crisis

Germany on Monday introduced border controls with Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland in a bid to stem the coronavirus outbreak.

UPDATE: Germany imposes border controls with five countries due to coronavirus crisis
German police check drivers entering Germany from France on Monday morning. Photo: DPA
Only those with a valid reason for travel, like cross-border commuters and delivery drivers, are allowed through, officials said. The measures started at 7am, AFP reporters said, and reportedly started at 8am at the border with Denmark.
 
At the border between Germany's Kiefersfelden and Austria's Kufstein, police let trucks through but stopped all passenger cars to question drivers, AFP photographers saw.
 
By 7.30am some 10 cars had been turned back.
 
 
German citizens and people with a residency permit will still be allowed to return to the country, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Sunday when he announced the temporary border checks.
 
“The spread of the coronavirus is progressing quickly and aggressively…one of the most important measures will be to cut off the chain of infection,” Seehofer told reporters as he announced the new border controls.
 
People “without a significant reason to travel” and those suspected of having been infected with the virus will not be allowed to cross the affected borders, he said.
 
Seehofer stressed the new controls would be temporary, and would be reassessed “from time to time”.
 
But the high point of the coronavirus crisis had not yet been reached, he warned, urging citizens to avoid social contact.
 
The decision had been taken after the Robert Koch Institute, which is responsible for public health in Germany, had declared that the French border region of Alsace-Lorraine as a risk area.
 
“This sparked a lot of questions and unrest in the neighbouring states,” he said.
 
A source close to the matter had told AFP earlier on Sunday about the planned border closures, confirming a report in the German media.
 
The popular tabloid Bild had reported that the closures would take effect on Monday.
 
Closing borders was not only to contain the COVID-19 epidemic but also to prevent panic bulk purchases by foreigners, which was apparently causing supply problems in areas around the borders, according to Bild.

 
Latest drastic measure

 
It is the latest drastic step taken by German authorities to halt the pandemic.
 
From Monday, schools and daycare centres in most German states will remain closed, with some exceptions made for parents in critical jobs who have not yet found alternative child care arrangements.
 
Germany has also banned large gatherings, and states are increasingly asking restaurants, bars, sports clubs and other public places to shut their doors as well.
 
Germany's islands in the North and Baltic Seas also closed themselves to tourists from Monday.
 
And Bavaria planned to declare a disaster situation to allow the state's authorities to push through new restrictions faster, including possibly asking the army for assistance.
 
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged citizens to limit their social contacts.
 
“Restrictions on our lives today can save lives tomorrow,” he told the news site t-online.de.
 
“We will conquer this virus,” he added.
 
Germany has so far recorded 6,245 confirmed infections and 13 confirmed deaths. There have been 46 full recoveries.
 
'Limit border crossings to a minimum'
 
Chancellor Angela Merkel and Seehofer met with state premiers from affected German regions on Sunday to agree the closures, the newspaper claimed.
 
Paris, meanwhile, said the decision had been taken in coordination with the French government.
 
Yet the French Interior Ministry insisted that the border would not be fully closed.
 
“We are going to limit border crossings to the strict minimum, while allowing people and merchandise to go through. It's not a closure,” a ministry source told AFP.
 
While the German measures currently apply to five countries, other neighbouring countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic have also closed their borders or introduced severe restrictions.
 
Germany had until now resisted closing its borders so as not to endanger the Schengen agreement, which guarantees free travel between European countries and has already been put under strain in recent years by the migrant crisis and the threat of jihadist terrorism.
 
But with Europe now considered to be the epicentre of the pandemic, calls to close the border with France had begun to emerge shortly before Sunday's decision.
 
“The spread of the virus has to be slowed. The basic rule should be: anyone who doesn't urgently need to cross the border should not cross the border,” said Thomas Strobl, interior minister of Baden-Württemberg state, which borders France and Switzerland.

Member comments

  1. Closing borders but everyone carrying on as normal inside the closure area is not going to make an enormous difference. Stricter rules on social distancing need to be imposed, what are the regions and government waiting for????

  2. France should be doing the same. France is getting nearly as bad as the UK in locking the country down.

  3. In typical media fashion, they omit critical data.
    “By 7.30am some 10 cars had been turned back.” Out of how many cars?
    And, “there are 13 reported deaths”. How any deaths during the same period from car crashes, “regular” flu, old age, etc.

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HEALTH

French government calls on over-60s to get second Covid booster as cases rise

As Covid cases show a significant rise in France in recent weeks, the government is calling on all eligible groups to get a second Covid vaccine booster shot.

French government calls on over-60s to get second Covid booster as cases rise

After a 40 percent rise in Covid-19 cases in the last week, the French Health ministry is calling all eligible people – including over 60s and those health conditions – to receive their second booster (fourth dose) of the vaccine.

“It is necessary to redouble our efforts to protect vulnerable people, this is done through vaccination and this campaign of second boosters is absolutely necessary,” said the ministry of health.

The Covid incidence rate is increasing in more than 50 départements across France. Currently, there are an average of 50,000 positive tests per day, which has also been accompanied by an increase in hospitalisations. 

“This is very clearly a reprisal of the epidemic linked to the arrival of new variants of the Omicron family, which are called BA4 BA5,” said infectious disease specialist Anne-Claude Crémieux to Franceinfo. Crémieux added that these variants are faster-spreading.

Therefore, the government is calling on vulnerable people to take their second booster dose (the fourth dose of the vaccine).

So far, only a quarter of eligible people have taken their second booster dose, with an average rate of 25,000 to 30,000 injections per day for the past two months.

“This is not enough, and it is not going fast enough,” urged the Ministry of Health on Tuesday.

The Haute autorité de santé also recently released its recommendation for a vaccination campaign to give a second Covid vaccine booster shot for the wider population, starting in October. 

The HAS recommendation advises starting France’s annual flu vaccine campaign in mid October (mid September for the French overseas territory of Mayotte) and combining it with a campaign to give a second Covid vaccine booster ahead of a possible new wave of Covid in the winter. 

At present although the great majority of the French adult population is vaccinated against Covid with two doses and a booster, a second booster is only recommended for people in high risk groups such as the over 60s and those with long-term health conditions.

The HAS recommendation reads: “At the end of May, the HAS recommended preparing for a booster shot campaign for people most at risk of developing the most severe forms of Covid, and envisaged a booster shot for healthcare workers.

“Those parts of the population most at risk are also those for whom the seasonal flu vaccination is recommended, therefore for logistical reasons the HAS recommends combining the two campaigns.”

The flu campaign is advised to go ahead as normal, starting in mid-October.

The HAS only makes recommendations, the details of policy are up to the government, but it usually follows HAS advice.

The usual seasonal flu campaign in France offers a vaccine for free to anyone in a high risk group, which includes the elderly, people with underling health conditions, healthcare workers and pregnant women – full details HERE on how to get the vaccine.

Those who don’t fit into those categories can still access the vaccine, but must pay for it – €6-€10 for the vaccine and the standard appointment charge to have it administered by a doctor (€25, with 70 percent reimbursed for those with a carte vitale).

The flu vaccine is available from family doctors, midwives and participating pharmacies once the campaign officially launches.

The Covid vaccine is also available from family doctors, midwives and pharmacies, but most of the vaccine centres set up in 2021 have now been closed down.

There is currently no suggestion a return of the health pass, so a second booster shot would be entirely voluntary, but the government has the power to re-introduce such measures if a major wave of Covid hits France over the autumn and winter.

Currently, there are no plans to lower the age minimum (as of now set at 60 years old) for receiving a second booster. Health authorities believe that the immune response after a first booster “continues to sufficiently protect” younger adults.

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