Trucks and cars at Czech border crossings with Germany have been facing hours of delay since Germany tightened restrictions with Czechia after designating it as a very high-risk country for coronavirus infection. German manufacturers, including car producers, are now fearing delays in deliveries and shortages of workers, which could lead to a standstill in their factories.
New restrictions are putting vital supply chains in Germany at risk as many German companies rely either on Czech inputs or Czech commuting workers. All but critical workers are now banned from commuting to work across the border, and all those crossing the border must provide a negative PCR test no older than 48 hours, causing huge queues at testing stations by the border and at the crossings themselves.
"If there are lengthy traffic jams at the borders due to testing and registration requirements, the supply chain is likely to break down and production will come to a standstill at many passenger car plants in Germany shortly afterwards," said the president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry Hildegard Muller, quoted by CNN.
"Should the border traffic situation get worse and result in even longer queues, it will no longer be possible to rule out production restrictions at Volkswagen. … We generally see it as the task of politicians to ensure free exchange of goods across national borders and create clear regulations in exceptional circumstances such as these," said a Volkswagen spokesperson to CNN.
According to Deutsche Welle (DW), there are currently more than 20,000 Czech workers working in Germany, thus if they were to cross borders with delays or were not able to cross them at all, many small companies in Germany could close down.
German regions along the Czech border have posted the highest coronavirus incidence rates in the country in a week, of over 300 cases per 100,000 citizens, while Czechia sees more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
"We have [coronavirus infection] hotspots directly along the border," said Bavarian Premier Markus Soder, quoted by DW. “We had to respond."
Currently, only selected cross-border medical workers, critical sectors workers and lorry drivers transiting Germany are allowed to cross into Bavaria for short-term entry and must provide a negative PCR test no older than 48 hours.
Soder criticized the Czech government for failing to contain the outbreak. "The people are not to blame. At the same time, we cannot leave the border open when there's an incidence rate of over 1,000 on the other side,” he stressed.
Rozvadov is flooded with lorry trucks. On February 17, the queue of mostly lorry drivers with foreign plates at the Rozvadov crossing stretched 10 to 12 kilometres long.
"Yesterday [February 16] we managed to test 573 people at the sampling point at the motorway crossing and 172 people at the old Rozvadov crossing. And today we reached 500 tests already at 8 am," said the sampling team coordinator Stanislav Castecka from the Samaritan Association.
About 98% of lorry drivers are foreigners, many from Southeast Europe. They say that the queue for testing can take up to 20 hours. Also, Slovak citizens have been subject to German restrictions transiting through Czechia, the country has been also hard-hit by the coronavirus variants.
"We are calling for a waiver of the requirement for freight drivers to present a negative test not older than 48 hours, when entering Germany. This measure will cause a huge problem, as for our drivers it is difficult to meet this requirement in practice, and it is very likely that it will trigger a chain reaction from other countries as well," said Slovak Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok in a diplomatic note to Germany.
On February 16, Czechia reported 12,486 new positive cases, the highest daily increase since January 8. The total number of covid positive people reached 106,211. The worst affected districts by COVID variants are Cheb and Sokolov, bordering with Germany, and Trutnov in the east part of the country.
The citizens who live in these districts have been banned from leaving these districts and those who do not live there have been banned from entering, with some exceptions. The police have been supervising the measures' observance on the entry roads.