EU to block entry of all non-residents in bid to control COVID-19 crisis
All non-essential travel to the European Union will be banned in the largest attempt yet to control the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the continent, as French President Emmanuel Macron declares his country "at war" and suspends all bills and rents.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced the shock crackdown on Monday and said anyone not from the EU's 27 member countries would be denied entry unless they are long-term residents or family members of EU nationals.
"Our healthcare system is under huge pressure," she said. "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."
The ban, which will likely be approved on Tuesday, will last for 30 days but is likely to be extended for months as Europe battles its worst peacetime crisis. The unprecedented measure will hit millions of tourists and deepen the economic fallout triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The EU is made of 27 major destinations and economies including Germany, France, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Finland, Greece, Spain and Sweden. von der Leyen said the plan would not affect crucial trade flows and citizens from the UK would still be allowed to travel to the continent.
The ban will not prevent EU residents from travelling from one country to another, however a growing number of countries are closing their own borders to all non-citizens.
In an extraordinary address to the nation, Macron said the country would be locked down from midday Tuesday and blasted French citizens who had ignored advice to keep their distance from other people. Macron also suspended all gas, electricity and water bills, as well as rents.