German interior minister defends COVID-19 border controls

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BERLIN, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) — During his visit to the German-Czech border on Thursday, Germany’s Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer defended the government’s border control measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We introduced entry restrictions and stationary border controls for a single important reason, namely to protect the population” from a highly infectious virus, he said.

To ward off the new virus variants, controls at Germany’s borders with Austria and the Czech Republic were reintroduced on Sunday. German citizens and legal residents are allowed to enter the country, the Ministry of the Interior (BMI) said.

There are exemptions for commuters with jobs in system-critical occupations, such as nurses, doctors and truck drivers, according to the BMI.

On Wednesday, trucks were piling up for a length of 12 kilometers at a COVID-19 test center near Rozvadov on the Prague-Nuremberg autobahn. The German Press Agency (dpa) reported that at times up to 1,000 people were queuing up to be tested.

Seehofer stressed that Germany had “comparable, equivalent measures” in place with countries such as the United Kingdom, Portugal, Brazil and South Africa, where the new, more contagious virus variants were widespread.

The minister did not specify how long the entry controls from the Czech Republic and Austria would last. “The probability is very high that we will have to extend these measures because the mutation situation has not yet changed decisively.”

Minister of Health Jens Spahn warned on Wednesday that the more contagious coronavirus variants were also spreading rapidly in Germany. The variant that was first detected in the United Kingdom was causing particular concern.

According to representative sample analysis conducted by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the share of virus variant B.1.1.7 in Germany has already increased from less than six percent two weeks ago to more than 22 percent. Enditem

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