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A sweetheart deal: Germany to exempt unmarried couples from COVID-19 border controls

FILE PHOTO: A couple stands on a landing stage on river Main opposite to a hotel with its window lights illuminated in the shape of a heart after German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the nation on the consequences of the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Frankfurt, Germany, March 22, 2020. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany will give a welcome break to the coronavirus lovelorn from Monday - easing its border controls to allow unmarried couples to reunite after what has been months of separation for some.

The exemption will apply to the partners of Germans from countries that Germany considers high-risk - currently most of the world outside the EU - and couples will have to provide some proof that they were in a relationship before the pandemic, the interior ministry said on Friday.

Most European Union borders have been closed to non-EU travellers since March, unless they are essential workers or married to an EU resident.

On social media, separated couples have been lobbying under the hashtags #LoveIsEssential and #LoveIsNotTourism for governments to allow them to reunite.

A few European countries including Austria, Norway and Denmark, have heeded the call, introducing “sweetheart visas” that exempt couples from the travel ban.

In Germany, couples will have to present an invitation by the partner who lives in Germany and sign a statement confirming that they are in a relationship.

They must also provide proof, such as stamps in passports or plane tickets, that they have met in person in Germany at least once or that they have lived abroad together.

The European Commission on Friday renewed a call for the remaining EU member states to exempt the unmarried partners of European citizens from travel restrictions into their countries.

Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Frances Kerry