Germany to Curb Austrian, Czech Travel Over Mutation Risk

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Germany plans to impose border checks and restrictions on travel from Austria and the Czech Republic this weekend over concerns about aggressive mutations of the coronavirus, potentially disrupting cross-country commuters and commerce.

The German states of Bavaria and Saxony have asked the federal government to establish border controls with the two neighboring countries, Bavarian Premier Markus Soeder said on Thursday. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer was quoted as saying that the controls would come into force on Saturday night into Sunday and that Chancellor Angela Merkel and Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz have given their blessing.

Germany to Curb Austrian, Czech Travel Over Mutation Risk

“We think it is necessary that both be declared mutation areas,” Soeder told reporters in Munich. Seehofer’s ministry decided to introduce border checks with Austria and the Czech Republic from Feb. 14 in order to prevent the entry of the virus into Germany, according to a statement.

Germany is on high alert for fast-spreading strains as it seeks to gradually reopen Europe’s largest economy. Merkel warned earlier Thursday that aggressive mutations will gain the upper hand in the country sooner or later, threatening to destroy progress made in containing the pandemic.

The move would follow Austria’s own steps to contain an outbreak in Tyrol. People will be subject to mandatory testing if they want to leave the Alpine province sandwiched between Germany in the north and Italy in the south. Tyrol’s Schwaz district has become the European epicenter for a South African variant of the disease that some studies suggest makes inoculations produced by AstraZeneca Plc less effective.

The three countries share close connections, with thousands of people commuting between them. The Czech Republic is home to Volkswagen AG’s Skoda brand. A spokesperson for the Czech government didn’t have an immediate comment when reached by phone, while the Austrian government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Germany to Curb Austrian, Czech Travel Over Mutation Risk

Under pressure from state leaders, Merkel agreed late Wednesday to loosen some virus restrictions and open a pathway to a return to some semblance of normality after months of stringent curbs.

Germany restricts travel from countries with high rates of virus mutations. The list currently includes the U.K., Ireland, Brazil and South Africa, according to the RKI public-health institute. If Austria and Czech Republic are added, people coming to Germany would need a negative test before traveling.

“You can only enter with a negative test,” said Soeder. “There will be no exceptions.”

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