(Source: Daily Mail) – The EU today revealed plans to shut itself off from all outsiders as it takes drastic measures to halt the spread of coronavirus.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen unveiled a proposed ban on all non-essential travel by non-citizens into the 26-nation Schengen free travel area for 30 days.
In addition, emergency medical and food supplies into the bloc will be able to use special ‘fast lanes’ to ensure health services and supermarkets can cope with demand.
The Schengen area includes 22 EU countries but not member states Ireland, Cyprus, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria.
Non EU-members Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are also within it.
Ms von der Leyen told a press conference: ‘The UK citizens are European citizens so of course there are no restrictions for the UK citizens to travel to the continent.’
She added: ‘Here in Europe we are heavily affected by coronavirus and we know that everything that reduces social interaction also reduces the speed of the spread of the virus.
‘The less travel, the more we can contain the virus.
‘Therefore, as I have just informed our G7 partners, I propose to the heads of state and governments, to introduce temporary restrictions on non-essential travel to the European Union.’
She said exemptions would include long-term EU residents, family members of EU nationals, diplomats, doctors and researchers working on containing the health crisis.
It came as the number of deaths in Europe came close to 2,000, with 48,277 confirmed cases.
Worldwide there have been 6,648 deaths and 173,204 cases.
In the United States, the party city of Las Vegas was put on lockdown and Wall Street buckled under the economic pressure of the outbreak, with the Dow Jones stock exchange in freefall from the open this morning.
It came as Germany announced plans to close shops, limit restaurants’ opening hours and ban church services in further efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus threatening Europe’s biggest economy, its largest selling newspaper Bild reported on Monday.
If confirmed, the moves would bring Germany a step nearer to a state of total lockdown like that in force in Italy and Spain, where most people are confined to their homes, and wreak further economic disruption.
The exodus of Brits from Spain also gathered speed today as the military was sent to ‘packed’ airports to keep tourists a safe distance away from each other as they scrambled to return home.
Members of Spain’s military emergency unit (UME) have been deployed at transport hubs such as South Tenerife and Malaga Airport.
Officers in Benidorm even used beach chairs to spell out ‘STAY AT HOME’ along the shores of the seaside resort yesterday in a bid to keep tourists away from the holiday hot spot amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It came as the country saw another 1,000 infections in the last 24 hours, bringing the Spanish total to 8,744. However, the increase was only half the rate of the weekend numbers and followed a series of lockdowns brought in across the country.
The government is already planning to extend Spain’s two-week lockdown and close its borders to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Sources told Reuters they expected EU leaders to discuss the travel ban during a video conference on Tuesday on the health crisis.
A second EU official said: ‘The idea is being discussed with a view to avoiding putting the health services under even more strain. But it remains to be seen what EU leaders decide on Tuesday, whether non-EU Schengen countries join, whether we coordinate with Britain and Ireland too.’
The epidemic has already snuffed out hope of a first-quarter upswing on which people had been counting to avert a recession, and will weigh on Germany’s economy until at least the third quarter, the Economy Ministry said.
The usually well-informed Bild said the government had recommended regions shut non-essential shops, ban church services and allow restaurants to open only between 6 am and 6 pm, with Germany’s 16 federal states having to decide which of the measures to apply and how Bild said.
There was no immediate government confirmation of the report. Chancellor Angela Merkel was due to hold a news conference at 5 pm UK time.
With schools already shut, almost 5,000 people known to be infected and 12 dead in official figures published at the weekend, and case numbers rising rapidly, many fear Germany is heading for the kind of disruption to everyday life that other countries, especially Italy, have experienced in recent weeks.
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