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UPDATE: Germany to close borders with Austria’s Tyrol and Czech regions

Germany will ban travel from Austria's Tyrol and Czech border regions from Sunday due to coronavirus mutation concerns.

UPDATE: Germany to close borders with Austria's Tyrol and Czech regions
AFP

The border will be closed over a troubling surge in infections of more contagious coronavirus variants, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Thursday.

“The states of Bavaria and Saxony today asked the government to class Tyrol and the border regions of the Czech Republic as virus mutation areas, and to implement border controls,” Seehofer told the Süddeutsche newspaper.

“That has been agreed with the (German) chancellor and the vice-chancellor,” he said, adding that the new curbs will begin on Sunday.

Bavarian state premier Markus Söder had warned late Wednesday that if the Czech Republic was unable to take appropriate measures to curb contagion, then a “border closure must also be an issue”.

Germany in late January banned most travellers from countries classed as so-called mutation areas or places hardest hit by new, more contagious coronavirus variants.

Only a handful of exceptions are allowed to enter Germany from these countries, including returning Germans or residents and essential workers.

With neighbouring EU countries continuing to report high infection numbers in part fuelled by variants, German leaders fear that keeping the borders open could compromise the country's efforts to curb contagion.

Baden-Württemberg state premier Winfried Kretschmann said in a regional parliament session that if virus variants were to keep propagating in neighbouring countries, then “of course that can in the extreme case also lead to border closures”.

Austria has already ordered restrictions to stop people leaving the mountainous Tyrol region, which Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says has been hit by the biggest outbreak in Europe of the South African variant.

READ ALSO: 'Austria is acting irresponsibly': Germany considers border closures

Fearing superspreader hotspot

Anyone leaving the region must now show a negative coronavirus test, with fines of up to €1,450 ($1,750) for anyone who fails to comply.

But Söder, whose region borders Tyrol, previously said he feared that “a second Ischgl” was in the making – referring to the Austrian ski region which became a coronavirus superspreader hotspot early on in the pandemic.

Tyrol “is not taking the development seriously,” he said.

Meanwhile Saxony state, which lies next to the Czech Republic, already said it was imposing tougher checks from Saturday with restrictions to also affect cross-border workers.

Only workers in essential sectors – such as doctors or employees in elderly care home – would be allowed to travel in.

But they would be required to take virus tests daily and commit to travel only between their homes and workplaces.

The Czech government said Thursday it would block off three hard-hit districts, including two on the German border, stopping people living in these zones from leaving and others from entering.

Czech public health officials want the curb to be in force for three weeks, although there are likely to be exceptions.

 By Hui Min NEO

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CULTURE

‘People liked the silence’: How Berlin’s club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Berlin's clubs are suffering from staff shortages, a lack of guests... and neighbours who've grown used to the silence, representatives for the scene say.

'People liked the silence': How Berlin's club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Some operators from Berlin’s club scene are bracing themselves for a difficult autumn. For months now, people have been allowed to dance again and life has returned to normal in the dark corners of Berlin’s famous nightlife scene.

But the clubs have far from recovered from the pandemic. They face staff shortages, rising prices and the prospect of a return to Covid restrictions in the autumn.

“We go into the autumn with huge fear, because the omens are totally unfavorable,” said association head Pamela Schobeß.

Spring and summer went anything but smoothly, she said. “There has been an oversupply of events. People aren’t going out as much, and some are still afraid to move around indoors.”

Money is also an issue. “A lot of people are afraid of rising energy prices.”

The industry lost workers during the pandemic and it’s hard to convince them to come back with the outlook for the autumn looking so gloomy, Schobeß says.

Her colleague Robin Schellenberg tells a similar story. People have switched to various other jobs and would even rather work on a supermarket checkout, which may have been considered less sexy in the past. Now, he says, some have learned to love not having to work nights.

READ ALSO: 

Schellenberg runs the Klunkerkranich, a small club on a parking garage deck in Neukölln. Because a number of things have become more expensive, they have also had to increase their admission prices.

His impression is that people are going out less often and are deciding more spontaneously. In addition, people in the neighborhood are now more sensitive to noise. “Many people found the silence very enticing,” he said.

Some in the industry wonder what will happen next. Will club admission have to become much more expensive? Will that exclude people who can no longer afford it? And what happens if Covid infection numbers rise sharply?

If masks become mandatory indoors in October, Schobeß believes that would be bad for the clubs. “Even if we don’t get shut down by the state, we’ll actually have to close down independently ourselves,” she reckons.

Masks take all the joy out of the experience, she says. People have drinks in their hands and are “jumping around and dancing” and then security guards have to tell them “please put your mask on.”

The federal government is considering whether states should be able to make masks mandatory indoors starting in October. Exceptions should be possible, such as at cultural and sporting events, for people who have been tested, recently vaccinated and recently recovered.

In the event that Covid numbers soar, the states could then be allowed to tighten the rules and eliminate all exemptions.

READ ALSO: German court declares techno to be music

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