Borders jammed in Europe

Photo: AP Trucks are jammed in the early morning on Autobahn 12 in front of the German-Polish border crossing near Frankfurt (Oder), Germany, 18 March 2020.

Desperate travelers choked European border crossings Wednesday after countries implemented strict controls to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. European leaders have closed borders to nonessential traffic, while leaving many frontiers open to cross-border workers and trucks carrying critical goods like food and medicine. That has led to massive backups of travelers and trucks alike.

To try to alleviate some of the pressure from eastern Europeans stuck in Austria trying to return home, Hungary overnight opened its borders in phases. Bulgarian citizens were first allowed to cross in carefully controlled convoys, then Romanians had a turn.

But by early Wednesday on the Austrian side, trucks were backed up for 28 km and cars for 14 km as rules allowing only Hungarians or cargo trucks to cross kicked back in.

In a second attempt, Hungary again opened the borders Wednesday through Thursday morning to allow Romanians, Bulgarians and Serbians to transit.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic expressed outrage as his citizens returned, claiming that 40,000 coming from jobs abroad had largely ignored orders to go into self-isolation at home, putting others in the country at risk.

Italy has been the second hardest hit country with more than 31,000 cases, behind more than 81,000 in China.

But German health authorities warned it was just a matter of time before the numbers spike unless people heed warnings to avoid contact.

Lothar Wieler, head of the Germany’s disease control institute, warned that unless social contacts are effectively reduced there could be up to 10 million infected people in Germany in two to three months. He said measures taken now could sharply reduce the spread and help ensure that those who do need medical help can be treated.

“We are at the start of the epidemic,” he said. “We are 1-2 weeks behind Italy. ”

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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