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9 May, 2020 08:53

Top German politician wants to ‘urgently’ reopen French border despite Berlin’s reluctance to ease Covid-19 travel restrictions

Top German politician wants to ‘urgently’ reopen French border despite Berlin’s reluctance to ease Covid-19 travel restrictions

The head of Germany’s most populous state has called for the reopening of the country’s French border to be fast-tracked. The federal government earlier warned that such actions risk launching a new wave of Covid-19 infections.

“We urgently need to open the border with France,” Armin Laschet, minister president of the country’s North Rhine-Westphalia state, which borders France, told German media.

The lockdown there ends on May 11. That would be a good time to send a signal to our neighbors that we are striving for a common European response to the pandemic.

Laschet suggested that the German government should also “talk to Austria in this sense.”

France is due to initiate its first phase of relaxing quarantine rules on Monday. However, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said earlier this week that the border will remain closed until at least June 15.

Also on rt.com ‘Corona is under control’: Bavaria lets residents go out & businesses reopen despite Covid-19 still blighting Germany

The German government has been under pressure to lift restrictions on international travel early as some European countries begin to gradually ease their lockdowns. A group of German lawmakers and members of the European Parliament have called on Interior Minister Horst Seehofer to fast-track the reopening of the border crossings.

The foreign minister of the small nation of Luxembourg, Jean Asselborn, has also written a letter to Seehofer, arguing that the shutdown of the border crossings is causing “growing discontent” among the population on both sides of the border and risks “permanently damaging cross-border coexistence” in the region.

Seehofer, meanwhile, has been insisting that opening the borders early could wipe out Germany’s efforts in slowing down the spread of the novel coronavirus. “The border control has made a difference [in combatting the disease] and so far has been the part of our success in containing the infection,” he told Bild on Thursday. Border closures will remain at least until May 15.

Also on rt.com ‘As long as coronavirus doesn't go on vacation’: German interior minister warns against ‘reckless’ reopening of borders

The idea of reopening the borders with Germany was previously floated by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who suggested that a trip on a vacation to Austria may be less dangerous for a German person than traveling in some hard-hit regions of their own country.

The Austrian Alpine ski resort of Ischgl – a popular destination among German and other international tourists – had become one of the major Covid-19 hotspots in the country. Local authorities were heavily criticized for their slow reaction to the outbreak. Ischgl and several other resorts were placed under quarantine in mid-March, but this was then lifted in late April.

In response to Kurz, Seehofer warned against “reckless” openings of borders and said that allowing tourist travel early could spur another wave of the infection.

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