Europe’s largest economy, which has been all but sealed off for two months from most of its neighbours, will start opening its borders again from this Friday (15 May).
Interior minister Horst Seehofer told journalists in Berlin on Wednesday that Germany’s border crossings with Austria, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg and perhaps also Denmark will be the first ones to reopen. The goal, Seehofer said, is to reopen all borders to neighbouring countries by the middle of June.
Germany’s borders with Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Poland, the Czech Republic and France have been closed to all but essential cargo traffic and commuters who must cross for work since the middle of March.
With Germany lifting its lockdowns on social and commercial life, state leaders have been putting pressure on the federal government to reopen the borders with neighbouring countries.
Austria, which sends around 30% of its exports to Germany, was keen to see the crossing opened again. Austria is also a beloved destination for German tourists. Some of the first cases of coronavirus in Germany were among German tourists who were found to have contracted the virus at the popular Austrian ski resort of Ischgl.
The EU is issuing guidelines this week for how member states should proceed with opening up their interior borders again. So far, it has been somewhat haphazard, with some countries making separate agreements to permit citizens from other neighbouring countries to enter with no restrictions while requiring others to quarantine for two weeks on arrival.
Germany has eased its coronavirus lockdown over the past two weeks, with shops, schools, museums, churches, and galleries opening again under new social distancing rules that include mandatory face masks.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, Germany currently has 173,171 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and 7,783 deaths from the virus.