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German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers an address. Photo: dpa

Coronavirus: Germany to close borders with France, Austria and Switzerland

  • Closures are due to take effect at 8am on Monday morning

Germany will on Monday close parts of its land border, including the one with France, citing the need to curb the spread of coronavirus and stop foreigners buying food at border towns.

The drastic response to the Covid-19 pandemic sees Germany and France, the European Union’s first and second largest economies, partially cut off for the first time since the end of World War II.

The German border closure will also affect Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg and Switzerland from 8am on Monday in an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Sunday.

Seehofer added that cross-border commuters and goods would not be affected.

The measures are also intended to stop foreigners from purchasing excessive amounts of products in German stores, according to news media reports.

“We therefore ask all citizens not to undertake non-compulsory trips,” said Seehofer.

Only the borders with Belgium, the Netherlands and Liechtenstein remain open, as Germany’s other neighbours – Poland and the Czech Republic – have already imposed a lockdown.

From left, Hendrik Hoppenstedt, Minister of State for Cooperation between the Federal Government and the Laender, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Olaf Scholz, German Minister of Finance and Jens Spahn, German Minister of Health. Photo: dpa

Paris, meanwhile, said the decision had been taken in coordination with the French government.

Yet the French interior ministry also 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 said.

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.

Border closures ‘may show what a full-blown trade war looks like’

But with Europe now considered to be the epicentre of the pandemic, calls to close the border with France had begun to emerge soon 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-Wuerttemberg state, which borders France and Switzerland.

Germany is one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with 4,585 confirmed infections. Nine people have died.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse