Berlin / Paris (dpa) – In the fight against the spread of dangerous mutations of the coronavirus, the entry rules for the French border region Moselle are being tightened.
The department that borders Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate with its approximately one million inhabitants will be a so-called virus variant area from Tuesday, the Robert Koch Institute announced on Sunday. Linked to this is a stricter inspection requirement for travelers and a ban on public transport, to which, however, there are many exceptions. There should be no stationary border controls such as those at the border with the Czech Republic or the Austrian federal state of Tyrol.
The French Secretary of State for Europe, Clément Beaune, regretted the federal government’s decision anyway. It contains “difficult measures,” he told Franceinfo. The president of the Grand Est region, to which the Moselle belongs, Jean Rottner, reacted indignantly. He called the decision “brutal” and “one-sided”. In fact, in recent days people had the impression of a fruitful cooperation with the German authorities, he told broadcaster Franceinfo.
For days there was speculation about a tightening of the access rules for the Moselle. The South African variant of the coronavirus in particular has spread in the region in recent weeks. According to Prime Minister Jean Castex, it already accounts for 60 percent of positive cases in Moselle. According to official information, the share in Germany is only one percent. The number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days in the Moselle was recently just under 300. In Saarland, on the other hand, it is only 73, in Rhineland-Palatinate as much as 49.
As of Tuesday, the Moselle is one of 16 countries and regions abroad that are classified as virus variant areas. This results in the following changes for travelers:
– Upon entry into Germany, a negative corona test that is not older than 48 hours must be presented. A quick test is sufficient.
– Participants must register online before crossing the border.
– Airlines, bus and train companies are no longer allowed to transport passengers from Moselle to Germany. Exceptions include German citizens and foreigners living in Germany. Goods traffic and individual traffic are not affected by the transport ban.
There is also a big difference with the virus variant areas of the Czech Republic and Tyrol: stationary border controls such as are not allowed at the border with France. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) explicitly pointed this out on Thursday and Friday, when unrest in the border region was already growing despite threatening restrictions. Merkel and Seehofer also had a simple reason for this: Bavaria and Saxony had explicitly asked for stationary checks at the borders with the Czech Republic and Tyrol, but not Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate.
This means that travelers in the border area with France will be randomly checked behind the border as before. This is called a manhunt for a veil. Further details are expected to be clarified on Monday. Subsequently, the European ministers of both countries want to convene the Committee for Cross-Border Cooperation to coordinate further implementation. Foreign ministers Heiko Maas and Jean-Yves Le Drian had already voted on Friday.
French European minister Beaune said they tried to moderate the measures as much as possible. He believed there was a cooperative Franco-German spirit and that a situation like last year’s spring would be avoided.
At the start of the corona pandemic, Germany reintroduced border controls – this had led to great resentment in the Franco-German border region. The Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate, Malu Dreyer (SPD), was also determined to avoid this this time. “The goal is to prevent the border from being closed while ensuring the highest level of security for the population,” she said.
In consultation with the German side, France had already tightened up its access rules for the Moselle region last week. According to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, frontier workers who do not travel for professional reasons must take a negative test at the border from March 1. In general, anyone entering France needs a negative corona test no older than 72 hours. However, there were exceptions for cross-border commuters.
Criticism of the new tightening also came from the FDP on Sunday. “Such strict access rules are a great burden for the intra-European border regions,” said General Secretary Volker Wissing of the Augsburger Allgemeine. “You have to remain the absolute exception.”