Germany not ruling out French border checks over coronavirus

Germany said on Monday it would not rule out expanding new travel controls to its French border due to Covid-19 variants surging in the Moselle region. Paris, however, urged against border closures.

Germany not ruling out French border checks over coronavirus
A French border crossing in Breisach, Baden-Württemberg. Photo: DPA

Asked about the situation in France, Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said Berlin was “continuing to monitor the situation and continually reviewing our measures to fight the pandemic”.

He added that border closures were “not normal” and a “last resort”, but said Germany was “in a situation where we need to do everything to prevent more aggressive mutations of the virus spreading as quickly in Germany as they have elsewhere”.

Seibert's comments came hours after French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune urged Germany not to close its borders with France.

“We do not want Germany to shut the border completely,” said Beaune after Berlin introduced tough checks at its borders with Austria and the Czech Republic over the weekend.

READ ALSO: Germany imposes controls on Czech and Austrian borders

“We will do everything to avoid an uncoordinated decision and a nasty surprise,” Beaune said.

He added that any closures should be introduced in coordination with France and include as “wide-reaching exceptions as possible” in order to protect cross-border workers.

Germany partially closed its borders with the Czech Republic and Austria's Tyrol on Sunday over a troubling surge in coronavirus mutations, defying condemnation from the European Union.

Under the new rules, only Germans or non-German residents are allowed through.

Exceptions are made for essential workers in sectors such as health and transport, as well as for urgent humanitarian reasons, according to the German interior ministry.

Everyone must be able to provide a recent negative coronavirus test.

The checks led to long traffic jams at border crossings on Monday morning, with some drivers having to wait several hours.

A surge in cases of the South African and Brazilian variants of the coronavirus in eastern French regions such as Moselle has prompted speculation that similar checks may be introduced on the French-German border.

The European Union condemned Germany's curbs, with EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders tweeting that the European Commission was “concerned about recent unilateral decisions” on travel.

France's Beaune also bemoaned the “lack of a discussion” between Berlin and the European Commission over the checks.

Yet a spokesman for the German interior ministry insisted Monday that the German policy combined “European thinking with local needs”.

READ ALSO: How European countries have changed after a year of coronavirus crisis

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

With a sharp rise in reported cases in recent weeks, France appears to be in the middle of a new wave of Covid infections - so what measures are the government taking to control it?

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

Recorded case numbers in France are now over 50,000 a week, and have been since the beginning of June – this is a long way short of the 350,000 weekly cases recorded in January but still the highest since May and representing a steady an increase of 57 percent on the previous week.

Hospital admissions are also on the rise – standing at 707 admissions on Friday, June 24th compared to 400 daily admissions just two weeks earlier.

So what is the French government doing about it?

Since March, almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted in France – the health pass is no longer required for everyday activities such as visiting a bar or going to the gym and face masks are now merely advised in all indoor locations. Only hospitals and other health establishments such as nursing homes still have mandatory rules on face masks and health passes.

For international travel, fully vaccinated arrivals from most countries – including the UK, US and the whole of the EU – need only to show proof of vaccination, while unvaccinated travellers need to show proof of a recent negative Covid test – full details HERE.

Health pass

A proposed bill from the health ministry that was leaked to French media talks about re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire (health pass) to get numbers under control.

Some caveats to add here is that the document is only a proposal at this stage and the government has explicitly rules out – for the moment – reintroducing the vaccine pass. The health pass can be used to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test, so it is less restrictive for the unvaccinated.

The document suggests re-introducing a health pass for travel – both to and from France – not for everyday activities like going to a café.

Testing and contact tracing

The bill also proposes extending the software involved in contact tracing and the Covid testing programme until March 2023, although this is described as a ‘precaution’.

Testing remains available on a walk-in basis at most French pharmacies and by appointment at health centres and medical labs. Tests are free for fully-vaccinated residents of France who have a carte vitale. Those are only visiting France, who are not registered in the French health system or who are not vaccinated have to pay – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test and €54 for a PCR test.

READ ALSO How tourists in France can get a Covid test


The Minister of Health, Brigitte Bourguignon, said she is “asking the French to wear masks on public transport once again” during an interview with RTL on Monday, June 27th. She also recommended wearing a mask in all other enclosed crowded areas, as a “civic gesture.” However, she did not refer to the request as a government mandated obligation.

At present masks are not required, but are recommended, especially on busy services where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

Epidemiologist Pascal Crépey said: “In crowded trains, the risk of being in the presence of infected people is high. It would be a good idea for the population to wear the mask, to protect especially the most fragile and avoid massive infection rates.”

Local measures

French local authorities also have the power to impose certain types of restrictions if their area has a particularly high rate of infections.

At present, none have done so, but Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has spoken in favour of possibly bringing back the vaccine pass over the summer.

Second booster shots

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine is now available to all over 60s and anyone who has a long-term medical condition or who is otherwise at risk from Covid.

It is recommended that the government increase public messaging advising those in high risk groups to get the second booster shot. The medical regular HAS has advised combining second booster shots with the seasonal flu vaccine campaign in September and October.

France is not, at present, considering widening the campaign to the entire popular, but the EU’s vaccine commissioner Thierry Breton says that if necessary, there would be enough doses to cover the whole population.