European Union Agrees to Close Borders for 30 Days in Attempt to Slow Coronavirus Spread

Switzerland, Liechtenstein, the United Kingdom and Norway are exempt from the ban.

A customer wearing a protective mask in France
A customer wearing a protective mask queues in front of a Monoprix supermarket as people began stockpiling food in Paris due to an outbreak of coronavirus pandemic on March 16, 2020 in Paris, France. . Photo: Getty Images

The European Union will ban all non-essential travel to all countries in the bloc for 30 days to halt the spread of COVID-19, German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed at a press conference on Tuesday.

As Italy — which has become the epicenter of the outbreak — Spain, France, and Germany already have severe lockdown procedures in place, The Associated Press reported that citizens of Switzerland, Liechtenstein, the United Kingdom and Norway are exempt from the ban.

European Council President Charles Michel also said the EU will arrange for the repatriation of citizens of member countries, according to CNBC.

The only people allowed to travel in the EU will be those transporting goods, family members of EU nationals, diplomats, medical personnel or those who are longtime residents. Despite leaving the EU earlier this year during Brexit, citizens of the UK will also be able to move about Europe during the travel ban, due to the country’s current transitional status in the bloc, a senior official told Business Insider ahead of the decision. The transport of goods will also be exempt in an attempt to keep the economy moving.

The ruling comes after European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen called upon EU leaders to declare the non-essential travel ban.

“The less travel, the more we can contain the virus,” Von der Leyen said in a Twitter video, “therefore, as I have just informed our G7 partners, I propose to the heads of state and government, a restriction on non-essential travel to the European Union.”

The announcement follows the Trump administration's ruling to restrict travel from Europe implemented last week.

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