European Union seals borders to foreigners

All non-essential travel into Schengen area is suspended

The EU endorsed the strictest travel ban in its history as during video conference on Tuesday evening leaders agreed to suspended all travel into the passport-free Schengen zone by non-EU nationals for at least 30 days. The measure is an attempt to inpopse uniformity across the Union after some Member States, including Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, unilaterally began imposing border checks.

The measure comes as France joined Italy and Spain in full lockdown, while on many internal borders long lorry tailbacks appeared. It is “absolutely crucial” to guarantee continued free circulation of goods and EU nationals across the zone, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said after the video conference.

The travel ban is expected to apply to 26 Member States as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. It 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.

The measures will now have to be implemented by Member Dtates."They said they will immediately do that," Von der Leyen said. "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, Von der Leyen added.

Meanwhile, In France citizens who leave home must now carry a document detailing the reasons why, with fines for transgressors to be set at €135. It comes after President Macron put the country on a war-footing, ordering the population to stay at home and only go out for essential trips. The number of confirmed cases in France grew by more than 16% on Tuesday, reaching 7,730, The death toll rose to 175, with 7% of the dead aged under 65. More than 2,500 people are being treated in hospital, including 699 in intensive care.

The number of confirmed cases in Spain has soared by 2,000 to 11,178. Authorities there are maintaining a partial lockdown on 47 million people. It is now the European country worst-affected after Italy. At midnight Spain began stopping cars crossing its borders from France and Portugal. Only Spanish nationals, residents and cross-border workers were being allowed to the country.

Germany, which has had more than 6,000 cases and 13 deaths, banned religious services and told people to cancel any domestic or foreign holiday travel. Venues including clubs, bars, leisure facilities, zoos and playgrounds will be closed. Schools are already shut.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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