(AFP) — EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Monday proposed that the bloc close its borders to non-essential travel, as Europe scrambles to fight the spread of the coronavirus disease.
“The less travel, the more we can contain the virus. Therefore… I propose to the heads of state and governments to introduce temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the European Union,” she said.
The ban would be in effect for an “initial period of thirty days” and would not affect Europeans coming back home, social workers, or those “working on both sides of the borders”, von der Leyen said.
EU council chief Charles Michel insisted the intention of the ban was to reduce the spread of the disease.
“The philosophy is to reduce movements that are not necessary and guarantee the movement of goods that are necessary,” he said.
The idea “is to make sure that our health systems are able to prepare for what is coming”, the former Belgian prime minister said.
Michel will official propose the measure at an EU leaders summit on Tuesday that will be held by videoconference. That meeting will come one day after the G7 holds a similar high-level videoconference.
Europe has now become what the World Heath Organization regards as the epicentre of the global novel coronavirus outbreak, and Brussels is trying to coordinate the response.
Several countries have taken unilateral steps to close their borders or impose stricter controls, despite calls from EU chiefs for a common approach.
Finance ministers from the eurozone single currency bloc were also holding video talks on Monday, as the continent readies a financial package to steady the economy.