France said on Thursday it would bring in new COVID-19 restrictions for the Moselle area around its common border with Germany as President Emmanuel Macron‘s government tries to contain a coronavirus surge in the region. Cross-border workers, who had exemptions until now, will need to present negative PCR tests to get through if travelling for reasons unrelated to their jobs, the ministers for European Affairs and Health said in a joint statement. France and Germany have said they want to find ways to prevent a border closure while also controlling the virus.
Speaking to France 24, one resident said: “I don’t understand.
“It’s not a good thing for Franco-German life.”
Another added: “We’re a border region, it’s something that shapes us and works well.”
Christophe Arend, a Moselle MP, said: “I’m very angry right now.
“I’m very disappointed that after more than 10 days of negotiations, concessions and efforts by the two border regions, Berlin just hasn’t taken them into account at all.”
Ms Merkel told reporters after a virtual summit of EU leaders: “Border controls are not on the agenda at the moment.”
The Moselle area, on the border with Germany and Luxembourg, has seen a surge in the variant of the coronavirus first detected in South Africa, prompting regional authorities to call for a local lockdown, which Paris has resisted imposing so far.
Joint France-German police patrols could be stepped up, the French ministries said, adding that vaccinations in the region were also being sped up and testing would be boosted.
France has resisted imposing a new national lockdown to control more contagious variants but has begun to toughen up restrictions locally in places such as Dunkirk in the north.
President Macron has consistently advocated for borders between EU countries to remain open during the pandemic and clashed with Germany last year after Berlin precipitously closed the border during the first wave.
Some Germans are keen to leave options open. Thorsten Frei, deputy head of the conservative parliamentary group, told Reuters that restricting travel or introducing border controls would be a last resort.
“But I cannot rule out the possibility that we will also have to resort to this means in regard to France,” he said.