World Health Organization (WHO): Europe now ‘epicenter’ of COVID-19
With Europe now officially the epicenter of the Coronavirus pandemic, Germany has announced its decision to close its borders with France, Austria, and Switzerland starting Monday, German news agency dpa reports. The German borders will remain closed barring some exceptions. Daily commuters and movement of goods have been exempted from the closure.
The measure comes after other European countries took similar steps. The eastern European countries, along with Austria, were among the first EU countries to take such measures. Poland on Sunday closed its borders to all non-Polish nationals.
So far, Germany has suffered nine deaths due to the Coronavirus. It has over 4,500 active cases of the disease, data collected by Johns Hopkins University shows.
Southern Europe has been worst hit by the virus. The number of confirmed cases has crossed 21,000 in Italy, with more than 1,400 reported deaths nationwide. An estimated 6,300 people have been infected in Spain. The country reported over 100 new cases in last 24 hours. Similar numbers have been reported in France as well. Across the channel, Britain is in grip of the virus as well. Coronavirus cases in the UK crossed 1,372, with reported deaths reaching 34.
German newspaper Die Welt reported the closing of the border:
Germany is virtually closing its borders with France, Austria and Switzerland from Monday. [German press agency] dpa has learned this on Sunday from government sources. Earlier, the Bild newspaper reported the story. The partial closing of the borders will come into effect from 0800 hours on Monday. (…)
The movement of goods between Germany and its neighbors will continue, information [collected by] dpa says. Daily commuters will be allowed to pass through the border as well.
The reason [behind the move] is not only the containment of the Coronavirus, but also to prevent panic buying by foreigners, which created short-term supply problem, Bild also reported. [Translated by the author]
Given the nature of the infectious disease, most Germans might fall pry to the virus, Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted on Wednesday. “When the virus is out there, the population has no immunity and no therapy exists, then 60 to 70% of the population will be infected,” she said.
The move taken by Berlin also seeks discourage panic buying across the border. “A key ingredient for hand gels and alcohol wipes is in short supply in Europe, with prices for the chemical jumping sharply on the back of a surge in demand because of the coronavirus pandemic,” London-based Financial Times reported on Sunday.
With a migrant crisis unfolding at Greek-Turkish, Germany’s leading opposition party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), has been urging Chancellor Merkel for weeks to close the borders. Since late February, thousands of migrants, mostly young men from the Middle East, have been amassing the Greek border, trying to force their way into Europe. “In face of threat, good politicians my take responsible and timely decisions,” AfD’s foreign policy spokesman in the EU parliament, Lars Patrick Berg, said, citing immigration restrictions imposed by neighboring countries.
Merkel: Most people in Germany likely to contract Coronavirus (DW News)
[Cover image via YouTube] [Excerpts from German news reports translated by the author]
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