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Europe plans full border closure in virus battle over coronavirus

The European Commission is planning to ban all non-essential travel throughout Europe’s Schengen free-travel zone as more countries close their borders to try to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she would ask leaders to implement the measures on Tuesday.

“The less travel, the more we can contain the virus,” she said.

French President Emmanuel Macron earlier said the EU’s external borders would be closed to travellers.

“Concretely, all trips between non-European countries and EU countries will be suspended,” Mr Macron said in a televised address on Monday.

Long-term residents, family members of EU nationals and diplomats would be exempt as well as cross-border and healthcare workers and people transporting goods, Ms von der Leyen said during a video conference.

The measures would be in place for at least 30 days.

The Schengen agreement allows people to move freely between EU countries without border checks. Citizens of non-Schengen EU member states will also be invited to apply the travel ban, including the UK.

The comments came ahead a video-summit with EU leaders on Tuesday hosted by European Council chief Charles Michel.

The latest World Heath Organization (WHO) figures list 168,000 infections globally and 6,600 deaths.

What is France doing?

President Macron has ordered people to stay at home and only go out for essential duties. He said the previous measures, including the closing of schools, cafes and non-essential shops, had proved insufficient.

“Even while medics were warning about the gravity of the situation, we saw people get together in the parks, busy markets and restaurants and bars that did not respect the order to close,” he said in the 20-minute televised address.

“We are at war… we’re fighting neither another army nor our own nation. But the enemy is here, invisible, untouchable… and is advancing.”

The restrictions in France will be in place for at least 15 days, Mr Macron added, vowing to punish any infringement. The government later said more than 100,000 officers would be deployed nationwide to enforce the lockdown.

President Macron also said the army would be used to help transport the sick to hospital and that the second round of local elections this weekend was being postponed.

He also offered reassurance to businesses, saying: “No French company, whatever its size, will be exposed to the risk of collapse”.

bbc.com

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