Coronavirus: Germany set to fully open borders with France, Switzerland and Austria

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Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to be “courageous and vigilant” Wednesday as the country emerges from its shutdown, calling on them to avoid a relapse into tougher restrictions as officials set out plans to relax border controls.

Earlier on Wednesday, Merkel’s government set out plans to loosen the border controls that Germany introduced in mid-March.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said checks on the border with Luxembourg will be dropped on Saturday. Germany also is prepared to end checks on the Danish border but Copenhagen is still consulting with other neighbors.

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On Germany’s borders with France, Switzerland, and Austria, all border crossings will be opened, rather than selected ones at present, and authorities will switch to spot rather than systematic checks.

Germany started loosening coronavirus restrictions on April 20, about a month after they were introduced. The easing has gathered pace in the past week, with the country’s 16 state governments — which are responsible for imposing and loosening lockdowns — gradually opening restaurants, schools, gyms, and other facilities. Social distancing rules remain in place.

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Some German regions have been less patient than others, and Merkel has consistently advocated caution. On Wednesday, she said she sees “an obligation not to endanger what we have achieved.”

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“It would be depressing if, because we want too much too quickly, we had to return to restrictions that we all want to leave behind,” Merkel said in a question-and-answer session in parliament. “So, let us be courageous and vigilant — let us reopen public and economic life and always keep in sight the development of the pandemic.”

Germany, which has seen a larger number of infections but a lower death rate than many other countries, has seen a significant drop in new COVID-19 infections in recent weeks. It has tallied over 173,000 infections and 7,756 deaths.