Germany has closed its borders with five neighbouring countries in an attempt to limit the outbreak of the coronavirus.
At 8 am on Monday, Germany shut down its borders with Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, France and Denmark, allowing only commuters and delivery trucks to enter the country.
The move reverses the policy of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had said as recently as last week that the borders would remain open.
The decision to close the borders comes as twelve people have died in Germany and the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached 4,838, an increase of over 1,000 in a 24-hour period, according to Deutsche Welle.
“Police are asking people where they are going, and why they are entering Germany. But there are no facilities here due to the fact the border has been open for the last 25 years and the controls are very makeshift,” a reporter for the German public broadcaster said of the German-French border.
On Sunday, Germany’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer said that the border controls were needed to “disrupt the chains of infection”, adding: “To do that, we have to limit not only large events and social contact but also the movement of people.”
“As long as there is no European solution, one must act in the interests of one’s own population. They are guilty who don’t act at all,” Mr Seehofer said per the Financial Times.
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The interior minister admitted that the coronavirus is spreading throughout Germany and the European Union “quickly and aggressively”, saying that: “The situation is very serious and we must, and will, react to it.”
Germany has also encouraged its citizens to refrain from travelling abroad, with Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Mass writing: “We currently advise against going abroad. The risk that you will no longer be able to start your return journey due to increasing restrictions is currently high in many destinations.”
Last week, Dr Angela Merkel said by the end of the outbreak in Germany, between sixty and seventy per cent of the country could become infected with the coronavirus, however, at the time refused to close down the borders.
Chancellor Merkel has consistently defended her policy of open borders during the European migrant crisis of 2015, saying in May of last year: “If there were mistakes made in the context [of the 2015 crisis], taking people in was not one of them.”
Earlier this month, thousands of Germans protested to open the nation’s borders to illegal migrants attempting to storm the Greek border from Turkey, chanting “we have space“.
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