Sunday 15 March 2020 4:21 pm

Coronavirus: Germany to close major land borders

Germany is said to be preparing to close its borders with Austria, France and Switzerland in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and her interior ministers have agreed the closures with the leaders of the three countries, Germany’s Bild newspaper reported.

The borders will be shut down from 8am local time on Monday. Goods will continue to flow between the countries and commuters can also still cross the borders, according to the report.

In addition to halting the spread of the virus, the measures are reportedly intended to stop panic buying by people from neighbouring countries, which has led to some supply problems in the border regions.

Other European countries have adopted similar actions as governments ramp up their efforts to limit the impact of the virus, also known as Covid-19.

Austria this morning said it will ban all gatherings of more than five people from Monday. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said people should only leave their homes for essential work, essential food purchases and helping other people.

Ski resorts across Europe have shut down more than a month early as a result of the health concerns.

Romania is set to declare a state of emergency, while the Czech Republic, which has already closed its borders, is considering rolling out a nationwide quarantine.

It follows strict measures introduced by both France and Spain yesterday. Spain, which is the second worst affected country in Europe after Italy, has ordered a lockdown across the country. The Foreign Office has advised against travel to Spain, and Jet2 has cancelled all flights to the country.

France has ordered the closure of cafes, restaurants, cinemas and all non-essential shops.

In the UK, where the death toll has now risen to 35, the government is preparing to tell over-70s to self-isolate for up to four months. Mass gatherings are also expected to be banned this week and people told to work from home where possible.

Last week the head of the World Health Organization declared that Europe was now the “epicentre” of the global coronavirus pandemic, urging governments to adopt strict measures to stop the spread of the disease.