This is a developing story. For up-to-date information on traveling during the coronavirus outbreak, visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
European Union leaders agreed Tuesday to immediately impose travel restrictions on most foreigners entering Europe for at least 30 days to limit the spread of the new coronavirus or COVID-19.
The move comes as the virus case count in Europe climbed to more than 60,000 with more than 2,700 people dead, the overwhelming majority in Italy. Several European countries have already introduced partial border closures and quarantines. Now, the EU is forging a united front against an illness that is also wreaking economic havoc.
“We reaffirmed the need to work together and do everything necessary to tackle the crisis and its consequences,” European Council president Charles Michel told reporters. He said the 27 EU countries agreed to impose border restrictions on tourism and non-essential business “as fast as possible.”
The plan exempts long-term EU residents, diplomats, and some healthcare and transport workers.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the leaders agreed in a conference call to an entry ban with “very, very limited exceptions,” and that Germany would start implementing it immediately.
Merkel said citizens of Switzerland, Liechtenstein, the United Kingdom, and Norway are exempt. The EU leaders also agreed to coordinate the repatriation of EU citizens stranded outside the bloc, she said.
“We are ready to do everything that is required. We shall not hesitate to take additional measures as the situation evolves,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told reporters.
Following Italy, ground zero in Europe’s battle with COVID-19, Spain and now France have imposed lockdowns, confining citizens to their homes except for urgent business such as buying food or heading to any hospital that might still have the capacity to treat them.
The 27 EU member countries are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.