Major traffic jam Karavanke Tunnel: According to media reports, a regulation, which was only passed at short notice on Friday and according to which Austria is tightening border controls at the Austrian-Slovenian border due to increasing corona numbers in numerous Balkan countries, has led to waiting times of up to 14 hours at the Karawanken tunnel when entering Austria. Only on Friday before the chaos weekend at Austria’s external borders, the Ministry of Health had issued a new “last-minute regulation” for transit traffic, but had not communicated it accordingly. It hit the return traffic unprepared.
The SeaHelp editorial staff had already warned of increased controls at Austria’s external borders after the Austrian travel warning for Croatia.
All returnees should be controlled
According to the Austrian Minister of Health Anschober, all travellers, including transit passengers, should fill in a form at the border and register. Until now, this was only reserved for Austrian travellers returning from the Balkan states due to the increasing COVID-19 infections. Why, for example, German returnees should also be registered, is probably a mystery to the Ministry of Health, because when they left Austria for Germany, there were no reports of repeated continuous identity checks that would have enabled a comparison to be made between those entering and leaving the country in transit.
Mega traffic jam of up to 14 hours before Karawanken tunnel
Obviously, the Austrian Ministry of Health was not in a position to correctly assess the consequences of this new regulation. Filling out a form by hand, meticulously supervised by additional executive forces at the border stations, then led to an almost expected chaos. Up to 14 hours of waiting in the mega-congestion at the borders was already more than an imposition for families with children, especially with small children. No toilets, not enough drinking water – this led to sometimes dramatic scenes! Whoever, as the Ministry of Health, makes such a decision without sufficient advance notice, which would have allowed travellers to adapt to the situation, should actually question himself…!
Carinthia intervenes and orders only random checks
In the meantime, the authorities have eased the border controls that were responsible for the traffic jams. On the initiative of the head of the state of Carinthia, Peter Kaiser, only random checks are probably being carried out at present. In contrast to the Ministry of Health, he saw an acute danger situation for many waiting people, especially families with children. He let himself be quoted literally: “The welfare of mankind is the focus of attention there.”
Increasingly aggressive mood among waiting people
Despite all this, holidaymakers returning from Croatia still have to be prepared for longer waiting times. The SeaHelp editorial team will continue to monitor and communicate whether the situation will ease in the coming weeks. In particular German returnees who were stuck in traffic jams became increasingly aggressive because of the Austrian measures. “First the sudden travel warning from Germany for some regions in Croatia, then you stand at the border to Austria for almost 14 hours and then you have to drive through Austria without a break, what you allow yourself here is already an impertinence,” one of the waiting people was quoted as saying and received broad approval from those around him.
Measure only for Germans? Austrians can evade
Regrettable also for Germans: While Austrians could use so-called “small border crossings”, Germans had to use the well-known bottlenecks to enter Austria for transit to Germany.
In the meantime, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman has also contacted the Austrian Foreign Ministry to discuss a possible solution to the congestion dilemma.
We want to know how our readers experienced the mega-congestion when entering Austria. Please use Facebook to write about your experiences in the form of comments, send us photos and let us know if there have been similar traffic jams at other border crossings, for example in Tarvisio. Also tips about alternative routes are welcome, because we will report about this topic again at a later date.