EU leaders to discuss travel ban in bid to combat coronavirus

Ban on all non-essential travel into bloc proposed by European Commission

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen speaking in Brussels on Monday. Photograph: Johanna Geron/Reuters

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen speaking in Brussels on Monday. Photograph: Johanna Geron/Reuters

 

The European Commission has proposed stopping non-essential travel into the European Union for 30 days to combat the coronavirus pandemic, commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday after a video call with international leaders.

“We informed today our G7 partners that we propose to introduce a temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the European Union,” Ms von der Leyen said after a phone call with leaders of the Group of Seven economies of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“We think non-essential travel should be reduced now too, in order not to spread the virus further.”

Citizens of the United Kingdom would not be included in the ban as they remained EU citizens, Ms von der Leyen added. Returning EU citizens, health workers, scientists working on a solution to the pandemic, and people who commute between borders would also be exempt.

A spokesman for the Irish Government said the proposal would be optional for Ireland as it is outside the EU’s Schengen zone of borderless movement. Ireland is to assess what impact such a plan might have on the Common Travel area with the UK and on the island of Ireland.

“Under no circumstances will a closure of the land border North/South be considered,” the spokesman said.

The plan must be agreed by the 27 EU member states, which are due to meet in a video conference on Tuesday. “Tomorrow we’re going to finalise that,” Ms von der Leyen said.

A number of EU states have imposed border restrictions, erecting health checks and limits on entry. On Monday the commission appealed to EU member states to allow goods traffic to pass freely at the borders to avoid clogging trade. It recommended that “people who are sick should not be denied entry but given access to healthcare”, and that people should be allowed to pass freely if they are returning home.