The EU has endorsed the strictest travel ban in its history as France joined Italy and Spain in full lockdown and Donald Trump told Americans to change their behaviour, acknowledging for the first time that beating the coronavirus could take months.
EU leaders on Tuesday suspended all travel into the passport-free Schengen zone by non-EU nationals for at least 30 days in an attempt to instil uniformity across the bloc after some member states, including Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, unilaterally began imposing border checks.
With long lorry tailbacks on some internal borders and concerns mounting over food supplies, it was also “absolutely crucial” to guarantee continued free circulation of goods and EU nationals across the zone, the commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said after an EU leaders’ video conference on Tuesday evening.
Charles Michel, the president of the European council, said: “We are confronting this: a serious crisis, a long and difficult crisis. We will do whatever it takes to assure our citizens’ health and safety and limiting the economic consequences of this crisis.”
Permanent residents and their families, medical workers and coronavirus researchers, diplomats and cross-border commuters are exempted and UK nationals are not affected. The EU also announced new measures on collective procurement of medical equipment, and easing state aid rules.
Following Italy and Spain, France went into lockdown at midday on Tuesday, with people allowed to leave their homes only to buy food and other essential supplies, travel to work if unavoidable, exercise or attend medical appointments.