Bratislava, Slovakia – Austria has moved to introduce strict border controls with neighbouring Czech Republic and Slovakia to slow down the spread of COVID-19, local authorities announced on Friday afternoon.
Replacing the random border checks previously put in place, the new travel restrictions are due to come into force over the week-end, according to Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer.
“To protect people in our country, we are closing the borders and will check every vehicle entering Austria”, Nehammer was quoted as saying, pointing to the “extremely tense” epidemiological situation in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The information was confirmed by Slovakia’s State Secretary for European Affairs Martin Klus, who warned people travelling between the two countries that longer delays should be expected.
Small border crossings should close down completely starting next week, while strict controls should come into force at the main ones. Anyone entering Austria should self-isolate, while cross-border workers may be exempted from the restrictions.
Austria has carried out nearly 800,000 border checks since mid-December, according to The Local Austria, with 10,000 people being refused entry and over 50,000 having to stay in home quarantine upon their arrival in the country.
The COVID-19 situation is particularly worrying in the Czech Republic, which is once more struggling to cope with one of the highest new infection rates in Europe and the world.
After controversially reopening shops, bars and services a few weeks before Christmas, Czech authorities ordered yet another lockdown on December 27. On Friday, Health Minister Jan Blatny said easing the restrictions was out of the question for the time being as hospitals are nearing the peak of their capacity.
According to the latest data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), the Czech Republic had over 1,100 reported new coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants, the second highest ratio in Europe after Lithuania.
The figure stood at 674 and 320 cases per 100,000 people in Slovakia and Austria, respectively.
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