Germany’s interior minister said that early decisions to reopen borders could backfire in terms of the spread of Covid-19. The leader of Austria had earlier floated the idea of inviting German tourists to return.

“As long as the virus does not go on vacation, we also have to restrict our travel plans. As understandable as the desires of people and the tourism industry are, the disease protection has its own timetable,” Horst Seehofer told Bild am Sonntag.

No one wants to restrict citizens’ freedom of movement longer than is absolutely necessary. But the reckless opening [of borders], which later backfires in the form of increased infection rates, doesn’t help anyone.

Seehofer was responding to a question about Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz who earlier said that Austria could open its borders in the “foreseeable future.”“If the situation in Germany and Austria is the same, it doesn’t really matter whether someone travels inside Germany, or goes to Austria and back,” Kurz said. 

The Austrian chancellor also suggested that it may be more dangerous for a German person to go to certain hard-hit areas of Germany than to neighboring Austria.

Austria’s picturesque Alpine ski resorts are popular tourist destinations for Germans and other international holiday-makers. The image of the ski slopes, bars and hotels has been tarnished after the resort of Ischgl became a Covid-19 hotspot, and many tourists were believed to have taken the infection to their home countries.

Local officials were heavily criticized for their slow response to the outbreak. Ischgl and several other resorts had been on lockdown since mid-March until the strict quarantine measures were lifted last week.

The Czech Republic which borders both Germany and Austria allowed outbound travel last month. Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said that he would like to see the country’s borders fully opened from July.

The idea of hastily reopening borders was met with skepticism in Germany. Last week, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas cited Ischgl as an example of why the “race” to prematurely open borders for tourist travel poses a risk of a new wave of infections.

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