EU to ban all 'non-essential' travel for 30 days over coronavirus fears

Will Taylor
News Reporter
A passenger wearing face mask at a quiet Edinburgh airport during the coronavirus pandemic. (PA Images)

The president of the European Commission has proposed a 30-day travel ban for people coming in to the bloc amid the coronavirus outbreak.

In a video posted to Twitter, Ursula von der Leyen said: “The less travel, the more we can contain the virus.”

She said she is proposing a “temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the European Union”.

“These travel restrictions should be in place for an initial period of 30 days which can be prolonged as necessary.”

The travel ban proposal would not apply to UK citizens, the president has clarified.

She 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.”

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The announcement comes after Europe became the epicentre of the outbreak, with Italy remaining the worst hit country outside of China based on official reporting.

Thousands of cases have also been reported in Spain, Germany, France and Switzerland.

The UK today announced it has more than 1,500 cases.

In the same tweet, von der Leyen said she was also proposing “fast lanes” to allow priority for essential transport like medical goods, perishable goods and the emergency services.

Long term residents in the EU, families of EU citizens and diplomats would also be exempt from the travel ban and von der Leyen said researchers and medical professionals fighting coronavirus should be allowed to continue to come to the continent.

People transporting goods will be exempt from the proposed travel ban, and she said “frontier workers” who commute into the bloc from outside should be allowed to continue as well.

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Countries under the Schengen Area, which allows for movement without checks between states, should also impose the ban, von der Leyen added.

Changes to state aid rules will allow governments to prop up struggling business at “unprecedented levels” and the commission president said there is “much more to come”.

The EU’s proposal comes after the US implemented its own 30-day ban on travel from Europe.