Germany ‘willing to reopen Danish border’: home minister

Germany is willing to reopen its border with Denmark, but is waiting for a decision from the Danish authorities, the country's interior minister said in a press conference on Wednesday.

Germany 'willing to reopen Danish border': home minister
German police proceed to controls near the border with Denmark on March 16 after the country closed its border. Photo: Claus Fisker / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP
“We are in principle ready to open the border with Denmark, but we want to agree the exact time together with the Danish government, whose decision we are awaiting,” Horst Seehofer told journalists in Berlin. 
Seehofer said that Germany would be willing to open the border with Germany as early as this week, but explained that
Denmark wants any border reopening to take place in collaboration with the other Nordic countries. 
Germany will sign the border opening agreement “as soon as the Danish government has completed its ongoing consultation with neighbouring countries”, he said. 
Germany has already made agreements with France, Switzerland and Austria on a partial reopening of the borders from May 15, and hopes to reinstitute border free travel between all EU countries from 15 June, he said. 
Denmark's government last week committed to announce a decision on whether to lift border controls by June 10 at the latest, after coming under pressure both from the Liberal Party opposition and from her support party, the Social Liberal Party. 
Austria's tourism minister Elisabeth Köstinger told state radio station O1 on Wednesday that the border with Germany would be open from next month 
“From June 15, the opening of the border between Germany and Austria will be possible,” she said after German and Austrian chancellors, Angela Merkel and Sebastian Kurz, “agreed on a gradual opening” of the border” during a phone call on Tuesday. 
In Denmark, parties representing a majority of MPs were last week pushing for a clear timetable from the government on the reopening of the country's borders, arguing that this was crucial to the recovery of the country's hard-pressed tourism industry. 
“We have to look at the boundaries. It matters a lot to business if it can open up for the summer holidays, ”Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, leader of the Liberal Party said at the start of last week's negotiations over the the second and third phase of Denmark's reopening, according to the Altinget news site. 
“We need to know if we can accept German and Norwegian tourists. We need to clarify that question. We need to have a long-term plan, ” Morten Østergaard, leader of the Social Liberal party told DR. 
Only the Danish People's Party, the leftwing Red Green Alliance, and the Socialist Left Party were opposed to reopening the border to Germany. 
“It is a bad idea to open the borders,” said Kristian Thulesen Dahl. “I would rather use the space we have to allow the Danes to do more things than to let the Germans in.”
Pia Olsen Dyhr, leader of the Socialist Left Party, echoed this sentiment last week. 
“In Jutland, there is less spread of infection than in Copenhagen. If we open the border to Germany, then we will not have the opportunity to open after-schools, for example,” she told Danish broadcaster TV2 last week.
But this was an issue that Denmark's Social Democrat government refused to budge on last week. 

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Denmark tightens rules on travel from border regions

The Ministry of Justice has announced that it will introduce stricter rules on travel from regions bordering Denmark.

Denmark tightens rules on travel from border regions
File photo: Nils Meilvang/Ritzau Scanpix

The decision has been taken due to concerns over the risk of spread of the more infectious B1351 variant of Covid-19, the ministry said in a statement.

Residents in border regions have faced more flexible entry requirements than others to ease movement in and out of the country for work, business, study or private matters.

READ ALSO: These are Denmark's current Covid-19 travel restrictions

But authorities now believe there is an increased risk of spread of the B1531 variant, which was first detected in South Africa, via border areas.

As such, people entering Denmark from Schleswig-Holstein (Germany) and Skåne, Halland, Västra Götaland and Blekinge (Sweden) must have a ‘valid' reason for travel and a negative Covid-19 test taken with the last 72 hours. Previously, a test up to a week old was allowed.

The new requirement will take effect from Wednesday February 17th.

In addition to the requirement for a recent, negative Covid-19 test, people travelling into Denmark from abroad are required to take a new Covid-19 test within 24 hours of arrival and to self-quarantine for ten days, according to the current travel restrictions, which have been in place since February 7th.

However, exemptions to the entry test and quarantine requirements apply for people who live in Denmark but work or provide services in border regions, or visit loved ones there.

These exemptions remain in place after February 17th but will now require a negative test less than 72 hours old on entry (changed from the previous 7 days). 

“It is important that people who live and work in the border regions can cross the borders and the government understands this. But it is also important to protect Denmark against virus variants that can create greater uncertainty in the epidemic. That’s why it is necessary to tighten the requirements for testing for people who move around the border areas,” health minister Magnus Heunicke said in the statement.