Coronavirus divides lovers, friends at Swiss-German border fences

Constance, Germany, and Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, are divided cities these days, with a strip of grass and two fences separating them after the countries closed their borders to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

In a park on Lake Constance's shoreline residents of both cities normally move freely across an invisible line marking where one nation ends and the other begins. But everything has changed: Most Germans cannot come to Switzerland, most Swiss are barred from Germany.

On April 5, lovers, brothers and sisters, parents and their children, and old friends pressed against the chain links in the spring sunshine, just close enough to say "I love you", too far apart to touch.

"This is our only chance to stand across from each other, face-to-face," said Jean-Pierre Walter, a Swiss who drove an hour from Zurich to see his German partner, Maja Bulic. "We can at least speak to each other. That's something."

For weeks, they have telephoned or spoken over FaceTime. But fiber optic is no substitute for flesh and blood.

"At some point, you have to see somebody in person," said Bulic, who drove 2-1/2 hours from near Heidelberg. "It's difficult, but I know one day it will be different."

This is a coronavirus no-man's land. It traces the route of a barbed wire-topped barrier that split Switzerland and Germany during World War Two and that was removed long ago.

The fences have become a meeting point for people divided by the epidemic and a reminder of its disruption for Europeans accustomed to traveling where they please. Switzerland is not in the European Union, but agreements allow Swiss and the bloc's citizens to travel virtually unfettered, in normal times.

As the coronavirus spread -- it has killed 559 people and...

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