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This is how Germans circumvent lockdown shopping in France / Strasbourg

In Germany the shops are closed, in France they are open. Many Germans therefore go to Strasbourg to shop. There are no checks on the obligation to quarantine. An on-site report.

Strasbourg on the day before Christmas: In the “Rue des Orfèvres”, a popular side street in the city center at Christmas time, crowds of people move slowly from one side to the other. You shouldn’t be afraid of being infected with Corona here, it is almost impossible to keep minimum distances.

After weeks of curfew in France, it seems like people are thirsting for shopping, so the rush is on the shops. But among the thousands of passers-by there are not only French. Numerous Germans from the southwest also use the opportunity to bypass lockdown at home – and drive “over” for one last shopping trip before the holidays.

Photo series with 14 pictures

This is not in the interests of fighting a pandemic. The shops on the Baden-Württemberg side of the border have been closed for a week because the corona numbers in Germany continue to rise despite Lockdown Light in November. The pandemic is also still out of control in the state, most recently the authorities in Baden-Württemberg registered 64 new deaths in connection with Covid-19.

Lockdown? Which lockdown?

The proximity to France and Switzerland poses additional problems. Because: unlike in spring, the borders are more open, so-called cross-border shopping is practically impossible to prevent. And so it happens that even now that everyone in Germany should be on the move as little as possible, many Germans drive to Strasbourg in the southwest. Conversely, the French are stocking up on the opposite side of the Rhine in the small town of Kehl with cheap drugstore items, groceries, petrol and tobacco.

Cars are waiting at the gas station: Many French people want to refuel cheaply in Germany despite the lockdown. (Source: t-online / Catharina Liesenberg)Cars are waiting at the gas station: Many French people want to refuel cheaply in Germany despite the lockdown. (Source: Catharina Liesenberg / t-online)

Both border towns have always benefited from each other. The dm branch in Kehl is, so the local story goes, thanks to customers from France, the highest turnover in all of Germany. Even the Strasbourg tram has been connecting the small German town with the other side of the Rhine for a few years now, attracting even more customers.

A middle-aged French woman with dark curly hair is waiting for exactly this tram on Wednesday. She listens to music, leans relaxed against a barrier. Are you aware that border traffic is subject to new restrictions? You don’t know anything. She wanted to buy cheap tobacco, but the shops were closed because of the lockdown. But she doesn’t seem disappointed: Chocolate and shower gel are also cheaper in Kehl. The other passengers get off and on without worrying as if none of the measures ordered by the Ministry of Social Affairs seem to affect them.

“The French also come to us for shopping”

One reason for this is likely: Those who are drawn to the other side of the Rhine, unlike in the spring, do not have to prepare for controls, the borders are open.

In Strasbourg you can find license plates from the Ortenau district as well as well-traveled people from Karlsruhe, Essen or Berlin. It does seem as though there are fewer people driving over there than before the corona pandemic. However, many of them do not want to miss out on the shopping trip, as several retailers in Strasbourg confirm. “Fewer Germans are coming than before, but they were here again on Sunday shopping,” reports a saleswoman in the handbag department in the “Galeries Lafayette”.

Shopping in the supermarket: Despite the lockdown, many Germans drive across the border to shop. (Source: t-online / Catharina Liesenberg)Shopping in the supermarket: Despite the lockdown, many Germans drive across the border to shop. (Source: Catharina Liesenberg / t-online)

A German couple is shopping in a Strasbourg supermarket. “We visited my mother in France,” explains one of the two. “And on the way back we’ll do a few more errands here.” Would they have done that without the occasion? The man shrugs. “The French also come to us for shopping,” he says. “Then they have to close the border,” adds his partner.

The parking garages are completely full by noon

Statements like these reflect a widespread opinion of the people in Kehl. This is not a helpful attitude in the pandemic.

While the rush in the “Rivétoile” shopping center is limited, the famous city center of Strasbourg is all the more crowded. The centrally located “Gutenberg” car park is almost completely occupied by 12 noon. And again and again there are vehicles with German license plates that wait at the barrier to be admitted.

Also in the “Rue des Grandes Arcardes”, in which branches of “Mango”, “Desigual” and “Sephora” are lined up, there are numerous passers-by packed with bags. Some of them will leave the metropolis for Germany in a few hours.

Responsible? “We cannot comment on it”

Wouldn’t it be necessary to carry out random checks at the border in order to enforce the new quarantine requirement? Wouldn’t it be up to politics to at least remind people of their personal responsibility in the pandemic?

The district administrator of the Ortenaukreis, Frank Scherer (independent) does not seem to see it that way. He evaded several inquiries from t-online. A spokeswoman said on Tuesday: “We cannot comment, the time before Christmas is too short for that.”

Does not comment: The non-party district administrator of the Ortenau district, Frank Scherer. (Source: Orteneaukreis)Does not comment: The non-party district administrator of the Ortenau district, Frank Scherer. (Source: Orteneaukreis)

The Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Social Affairs, which has just introduced the quarantine requirement, did not want to take a position on its implementation on Tuesday and referred to the federal police. In turn, on request, they stated in writing: “Beyond the already existing level, no additional measures are currently being taken at the land- and airside Schengen internal borders.”

In other words: No increased presence at the borders, no additional controls – the quarantine requirement seems to be a measure that only exists on paper.

The German border post in Kehl looks correspondingly dreary. Only two police officers eke out their shift in a van parked next to the street. What exactly they are doing is not apparent, but they do not seem to be performing controls. Has border traffic at least subsided?

Ortenaukreis has a corona incidence of 214.6

The officials on site are not allowed to give any assessment. Peter Spindler, general manager of the trade association Südbaden, says: “With the current quarantine obligation, shopping across the border will certainly be significantly less.” But he will hardly come to a standstill. “Of course, Germans are now going to France to go shopping,” he says.

With the start of the hard lockdown on December 16, Baden-Württemberg introduced stricter regulations than other federal states. In the southwest there is even a curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. Nevertheless, not a single county has so far had a 7-day incidence below 100. In the Ortenau district it is 214.6 – and the trend is rising.

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