Coronavirus: European Union seals borders to most outsiders
The European Union will ban travellers from outside the bloc for 30 days in an unprecedented move to seal its borders amid the coronavirus crisis.
The measure is expected to apply to 26 EU states as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. UK citizens will be unaffected.
The ban came as deaths continued to soar in Italy and Spain, and France began a strict lockdown.
Europe has been badly hit by the virus, which has killed 7,500 globally and has infected more than 185,000 people worldwide.
Meanwhile, the Euro 2020 football competition has been postponed by a year.
What are the EU measures?
The travel ban will affect all non-EU nationals from visiting the bloc, except long-term residents, family members of EU nationals and diplomats, cross-border and healthcare workers, and people transporting goods.
Free travel is a cherished principle within the European border-free Schengen area. But in recent days many countries have unilaterally imposed full or partial border shutdowns in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
This prompted the commission to propose that the bloc act in a more unified fashion and restrict entry to the union as a whole, at the urging of French President Emmanuel Macron.
The measures were agreed in a video-summit between EU leaders on Tuesday afternoon and will now have to be implemented by member states.
“They said they will immediately do that,” said EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen at a press conference. “This is good, so that we have a unanimous and united approach [where] the external borders are concerned.”
The UK and the Republic of Ireland – which is part of the EU but not Schengen – will be invited to join the measure.
It was also crucial that the EU “unblocks the situation” with regards to closed internal borders, Mrs Von der Leyen said, because “too many people are stranded”.