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EU unity crumbles: Austria rejects opening borders with Italy – ‘Still a hotspot’

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The Austrian Health Minister, Rudolf Anschober, said that while some regions in Italy have improved the situation, the country is still deemed a threat. Both Austria and Switzerland will continue to exclude Italy when they reopen their borders.

In an interview with the Oberoesterreichischen Nachrichten newspaper, Mr Anschober said: “Freedom of movement is good, but we must be careful.

“Italy is still a hotspot, although in some regions the situation has improved and the commitment is big.

“I am a supporter of freedom of movement, but with Italy we still have to be cautious.”

The minister cited 382 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in Italy compared to just 55 in Croatia and 70 in Slovenia.

Austrian Health Minister, Rudolf Anschober

Austrian Health Minister, Rudolf Anschober says borders to Italy will remain closed (Image: Getty)

The Austrian borders have been closed since March

The Austrian borders have been closed since March (Image: Getty)

He went on to say how a negative test result requirement is needed to enter Austria and will remain in force.

Mr Anschober said: “It is true that Slovenia claims to have positive data, but it is also true that it is easy to get to Italy from Slovenia.”

Only when Europe moves out of lockdown will the Austrian and Swiss borders reopen to Italy, according to the minister.

Italy is set to reopen its borders next week but Austria will not follow suit.

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Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (Image: Getty)

Politico report Switzerland will reopen the southern borders on June 3 but they have been warned it is “premature” and travelling is not recommended.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg reportedly spoke with his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio this week.

They discussed a step-by-step approach to reinstating travel between the two countries.

Italy has begun to ease lockdown restrictions but officials are concerned not enough attention is being paid to the possibility of a second wave of infections.

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Coronavirus cases around the world

Coronavirus cases around the world (Image: Express)

Big crowds have begun to gather outside bars and clubs and many people have been seen failing to wear masks or respect social distancing rules.

The country has been one of the worst affected countries in the world from COVID-19 with more than 32,000 deaths – a figure that has been overtaken by the UK.

Beaches, restaurants and bars opened again on May 18 after a strict lockdown, which even banned people from going outdoors to exercise.

The government has allowed establishments to reopen as long as they enforce social distancing by separating tables and ensuring customers remain one metre apart.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio (Image: Getty)

Italy’s Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia told La Stampa newspaper: “Be careful, if it goes on like this we won’t be able to reopen regions.

“I understand the young people, but we cannot cancel the efforts made: at the end of the week the government will evaluate the situation based on the number of infections.

“We must not forget that we are still facing COVID-19 and so those who fuel a movida are betraying the sacrifices made by millions of Italians.”

Mayor of Salerno, Vincenzo Napoli, also voiced his concerns of the high number of crowds in the region.

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz (Image: Getty)

He said: “There seems to have been some sort of psychological repression of what has happened so far, just like an emotional release.

“This is the worst that can happen.

“Lowering your guard at this stage means returning to the terrifying action of the virus.”

With regards to a second wave of the pandemic across Europe, Stefan de Keersmaecker, a spokesperson for the European Commission, has said that “member states should prepare for eventual second waves of infections by taking any opportunity to enhance the existing surveillance systems.”

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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