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Covid-19: Bavaria warns Austrians against cross-border shopping

Bavarian authorities have urged people in Austria not to go shopping across the border while most of the country has been classed as a risk zone by Germany.

Covid-19: Bavaria warns Austrians against cross-border shopping
Shoppers in Munich in May. Photo: DPA

As Austrians celebrate their National Day on Monday, which is a public holiday throughout the country, there are fears that people will travel and cross the border into Bavaria for non-essential reasons, such as for tourism or shopping purposes.

But Bavarian Health Minister Melanie Huml, of the conservative Christian Social Union, pointed out on Sunday that if people in Austria crossed the border to go shopping they would face quarantine in the southern state – even if they were only visiting for a short time.

“Even though we like to have our Austrian neighbours with us under normal circumstances – cross-border travel for shopping only is not a good idea in the current corona infection situation and is not permitted anyway,” Huml said.

The daily increasing numbers are worrying and contact of any kind should be avoided as far as possible, she added.

The obligation to quarantine for 14 days applies to everyone entering Bavaria from a foreign risk area, Huml emphasised. The quarantine period can be ended after a period of five days at the earliest with a negative coronavirus test.

A shopping trip, no matter how short it is, is no exception, she said. According to the current entry quarantine regulation, anyone who has stayed in a risk area for more than 48 hours and enters Bavaria is obliged to go into quarantine. The Minister underlined: “And this is the case for people living in Austria.”

In Austria, eight out of nine federal states have been classed as risk zones by Germany – only Carinthia is not considered a risk area.

READ ALSO: UK, Switzerland and most of Austria placed on Germany's quarantine list

The 48-hour exception does not apply to people living in Austria

Authorities were keen to point that the so-called '48-hour quarantine exception rule' does not in principle apply to people who live permanently in a risk area and enter Bavaria from there.

According to information from the Health Ministry, the exception applies to Bavarians who were briefly in a risk area (for less than 48 hours) because they work there or were visiting a partner.

Huml said: “I ask everyone to use common sense. This is not the time to travel and meet. We want to avoid the spread of the virus as much as possible.”

Covid-19 is spreading rapidly in Bavaria. On Monday 20 Bavarian cities and districts including the capital Munich exceeded the threshold of 100 new corona infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days. According to data from the State Office of Health (LGL), this is nine more municipalities than before the weekend.

Cases are also rising in Austria, where new coronavirus measures have been introduced to try and slow down the spread.

READ ALSO: 'There's a danger of Covid-19 getting out of control': Bavaria orders tougher measures

On Friday October 23rd, a new rule was introduced that means commuters who enters Bavaria from a foreign risk area, including Austria, for professional or educational purposes at least once a week must regularly submit Covid-19 tests to the relevant health authority.

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AUSTRIA

Austria files lawsuit against Germany over autobahn ‘foreigner tolls’

The government in Vienna is now taking legal action before the European Court of Justice against a car toll in Germany planned for 2019.

Austria files lawsuit against Germany over autobahn ‘foreigner tolls’
A sign that says "Toll" on the autobahn in Rostock. Photo: DPA.

The planned introduction of the toll would be discriminatory, Austrian Transport Minister Jörg Leichtfried said in Vienna on Thursday.

“Germans won't pay because they are German. Austrians will pay because they are Austrian. We're not going to stand for that,” Leichtfried said in a statement.

There is a good chance of success in court, according to legal officials commissioned by the Austrian government.

When Germany’s upper house of parliament (Bundesrat) in March approved a controversial law imposing tolls on the country’s famous autobahns (motorways), Austria immediately objected, saying it discriminates against foreign drivers and announcing it would file a legal challenge.

Austria – a country where it is estimated that 1.8 million commuters would be affected by Germany's autobahn tolls – is now taking legal action against its larger neighbour.

Whereas residents in Germany will have to pay a yearly toll through their bank accounts, unlike foreign drivers German-registered drivers will essentially be refunded thanks to a matching reduction on their motor vehicle tax bill. Those with particularly eco-friendly vehicles will get the biggest discount, that would essentially make up for the amount they pay for the toll.

The price for an annual autobahn pass will be capped at 130 euros for German and foreign cars. Those coming from outside Germany also have two other short-term options: a ten-day toll of between €2.50 and €25, depending on the size and eco-friendliness of the car, or a two-month toll of between €7 and €50, also measured with the same criteria.

Though Austria is one of the toughest critics of the proposed toll, neighbouring countries such as Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands have objected as well, previously stating that they, too, would consider taking Germany to the European Court of Justice.

Leichtfried had repeatedly emphasized that in the end, only foreigners would have to pay these tolls and that this was not compatible with the basic values of the EU.

In March Green party politician Winfried Kretschmann told the German Bundesrat that the toll was “not a good sign for Europe”, calling it a “foreigner toll” that would inflict “great political damage.”

The Bundestag (German parliament) had already passed a law in 2015 to establish the toll. But Germany was unable to implement it because the European Commission fought back, saying it violated EU policies by discriminating against non-German drivers from other member states.

Then after negotiations in November last year, Berlin was given the green light and the Bundestag was able to pass certain changes to the measure for the toll to go into effect in 2019. The laws have not yet been implemented and could still be delayed by the Bundesrat.

Germany is one of the only EU countries that has thus far not been charging for the use of its motorway system.

Anyone driving on Austrian motorways, including Austrians, has to buy a vignette toll sticker valid for a certain time period.

READ ALSO: What the new 'foreigner toll' on the Autobahn will mean for you