The coronavirus outbreak has led to the shutdown of a number of industries across the world, but Germany is embarking on an ambitious project to fill the huge gap left in its seasonal workforce.
Last year 300,000 people, mainly from Eastern Europe, travelled to Germany to work in the fields. To ensure crops such as asparagus are picked, and new crops are planted in time, Europe’s biggest economy has started flying in workers, with apparently rigorous precautions in place to ensure coronavirus isn’t spread by the newcomers.
On Thursday two planeloads of Eastern European farmhands arrived in Berlin and Dusseldorf, undergoing health checks before departure and upon arrival. The groups will be carefully controlled, having to live and work separately from other farmhands for two weeks, and wear protective gear.
“There will be no individual trips when you arrive here, and every company must guarantee a certain distance to be kept during transport and when people work together in groups,” said Julia Kloeckner, Germany’s Agriculture Minister.
“That is for the first 14 days quasi quarantine, during which they can work."
She announced it had been agreed that 40,000 workers could enter in April, with another 40,000 in May possibly following.
Workers have to register online beforehand with Eurowings, the airline contracted to bring the workers in, saying when they're needed and where.
So far, 9,900 people had registered for April and another 4,300 for May.
Germany currently has more than 118,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, and 2,607 deaths.