Germany is closing most of its border crossings with Austria, France and Switzerland on Monday as a measure to stop the spread of coronavirus as well as to prevent foreign visitors from mass purchasing crucial supplies.
The decision to close borders was first circulated through German tabloid media and later reported by the Austrian outlet, The Local AT. The border closure will reportedly take affect on Monday morning at 8 a.m.
The closure is meant to both prevent the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19, as well as to prevent foreign travellers from making bulk purchases that have reportedly left some German border areas with supply shortages. Cargo shipments and cross-border commuters are reportedly exempted from the travel restriction.
“The spread of the virus has to be slowed. The basic rule should be: anyone who doesn’t urgently need to cross the border should not cross the border,” said Thomas Strobl, the interior minister for the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, which borders both France and Switzerland.
Though the German travel restrictions only apply to Austria, France and Switzerland, other European countries are also taking on measures to close borders and limit potential coronavirus transmission. Poland, the Czech Republic and Denmark, all countries neighboring Germany, have also closed their borders or introduced travel restrictions.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe also called on Saturday for all non-essential shops, restaurants and movie theaters to be closed, and advised people to avoid public gatherings and to limit their outings as much as possible.
Germany has thus far resisted closing its borders, so as not to endanger the Schengen Zone agreement, which allows for free travel between participating European countries.
According to Johns Hopkins University’s interactive coronavirus tracking map, Germany has confirmed 4,585 cases of coronavirus, of which nine cases have been fatal.
Neighboring France has had 4,481 coronavirus cases and 91 fatalities. Switzerland has had 1,359 cases and 13 fatalities. Austria has had 655 cases and one fatality.
U.S. President Donald Trump also recently called for restrictions on travel from many European countries during a Wednesday address. Those restrictions went into effect on Friday and were later expanded by the Trump administration to include the United Kingdom and Ireland, which had initially been exempt.
Those U.S. imposed travel restrictions are expected to stay in place for at least 30 days.