BERLIN: Germany declared France’s Covid-battered Moselle region a high-risk area for virus variants on Sunday, prompting tougher entry rules for visitors at the border.

France’s eastern Moselle region is now classed as an area “at particularly high risk of infection due to widespread occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 virus variants”, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for disease control announced.

From Tuesday, travellers from Moselle — which lies next to Germany’s Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate states — will need to be able to show a negative coronavirus test from the previous 48 hours.

Germany has already introduced tough checks at its land borders with the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol region, ignoring calls from Brussels to keep frontiers within the European Union open.

At those crossings, only Germans and non-German residents are allowed to enter, as well as lorry drivers and cross-border commuters working in certain categories of jobs.

Every vehicle is stopped and occupants must produce a negative test that is less than 48 hours old. The checks on the German side of the Moselle crossing are expected to be less strict, a German interior ministry spokesman said.

Instead of systematic checks, police would randomly stop vehicles on the German side and ask drivers to show “a negative test and their online entry registration”, he said. Germany has grown increasingly concerned in recent weeks about the rapid spread of new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus, especially those first detected in Britain and South Africa.

The coronavirus, including the more dangerous South African variant, is spreading faster in Moselle than elsewhere in France but French officials have pleaded with Berlin to avoid a full closure.

The German classification “normally implies the extremely strict measure of a quasi-closure of borders”, France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune said Sunday.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2021

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