Germany eases border closures but checks remain until mid-June

'The clear objective is that we want free travel in Europe again as of mid-June,' says Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.

Germany eases border closures but checks remain until mid-June

Berlin has announced plans to relax border restrictions as of Saturday, but said coronavirus-related checks will remain in place until at least June 15.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told reporters that all border crossings with Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland will be reopened as of Saturday.

In the case of Luxembourg, German police will also suspend all checks as of Saturday, Seehofer said, adding that he was aiming for a similar solution at the German-Danish border, pending an agreement with Copenhagen that is currently coordinating border openings with other Scandinavian neighbors.

At border crossings with France, Switzerland and Austria, checks will remain in place until at least June 15 but will be “relaxed,” Seehofer said. “We will not carry out systematic checks as before, but rather random checks,” he added.

The minister said he had reached an agreement with the three countries that all checks on both sides of their borders will be suspended by June 15, provided that there’s no new sharp increase in coronavirus infections.

“The clear objective is that we want free travel in Europe again as of mid-June,” Seehofer said. “That presupposes that the infection situation will continue to be as favorable as we are experiencing these days,” he stressed.

“If public discipline continues to be maintained in the population, with hygiene, face masks, distancing regulations, despite the easing of restrictions … in all European countries, then we can imagine that we will have free travel again on June 15. But I ask you to take this condition into account,” he said.

Despite the loosening of checks, it’s not yet clear who will be allowed to cross borders. The current restrictions, which Berlin introduced on March 16 to stop the spread of the coronavirus, only permit limited movement of people including lorry drivers and commuters to travel into Germany.

Seehofer said that state secretaries from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France will discuss widening these exemptions in the coming days.

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn welcomed the announcement, amid tension between the Grand Duchy and Berlin over the border restrictions. “This decision will not only bring concrete facilitations for citizens and businesses on both sides of the border, but is also an important signal for a gradual re-enactment of the Schengen Agreement,” he said.

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Schools to reopen as Belgium OKs further easing of lockdown rules

Hairdressers may also open by appointment starting next Monday.

Schools to reopen as Belgium OKs further easing of lockdown rules

Belgium confirmed Wednesday the country will relax some lockdown measures, including a partial reopening of schools, amid encouraging numbers on COVID-19 infections and deaths.

The National Security Council, made up of politicians and experts, announced that schools will reopen part-time from next Monday for some elementary and secondary grades. Nursery schools will remain closed.

The government had previously said reopening schools was its goal, provided the situation continues to improve.

Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès also made a surprise announcement: Hair salons may open by appointment starting on Monday.

Last week, Belgium began to slowly relax its coronavirus restrictions, allowing the reopening of shops and indoor gatherings of up to four people.

The second phase, starting next Monday, affects not just schools. Museums and zoos may reopen under certain conditions, which include issuing tickets online and social distancing. Outdoor food markets may also reopen if local authorities give their green light and if social distancing is maintained.

The government said it’s preparing an exit strategy for the rest of the cultural sector.

The next important phase starts June 8, when decisions about tourism, restaurants and bars are expected. Socializing in larger groups may also be addressed. The government isn’t expected to make any announcements on those measures until the week before, however.

“There will probably not be a return to normality before the summer,” Wilmès said. “Our strategy will be continuously evaluated in the coming weeks.”

“I know some people are worried about a second wave,” she added, referring to the concern that if countries move too quickly, the virus could return again. “It’s a scenario we can never rule out. That’s why we monitor the situation day after day and prepare to take immediate action if necessary.”

Earlier Wednesday, Steven Van Gucht, who chairs the scientific committee that advises the government, said the “trends remain hopeful.”

The total number of deaths in Belgium is now 8,843, with the daily numbers reported far lower than they were in early to mid-April. The number of patients is intensive care is also declining and is now down to 420.

Source : Politico EU More   

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