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EU bans all non-essential travel on the continent

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

By Susy Hodges

Speaking in a nationwide TV address, France’s president Emmanuel Macron said under the new measures Europe’s borders will close from Tuesday for a period of 30 days due to the coronavirus outbreak. He said all travel between non European countries and EU nations was being suspended.

Family members of EU nationals and diplomats would be exempt from the measures as well as healthcare workers and people transporting goods.

The Schengen Free-travel-zone agreement allows people to move freely between EU countries without border checks. Citizens of non-Schengen EU member states were also being invited to apply the travel ban.

In London, the government announced on Tuesday that Britons should avoid all non-essential travel to tackle the spread of the coronavirus. The Foreign Secretary urged British people abroad to immediately return to the United Kingdom.

Listen to Susy Hodges' report

Earlier, France had announced that a nationwide lockdown restricting people’s movements was coming into effect on Tuesday. Under the new restrictions, people across France have been ordered to stay at home for at least 15 days and only go out for essential reasons.

President Macron said the previous measures, including the closing of schools, cafes and non-essential shops, had proved insufficient because many people were ignoring the advice about social distancing and getting together in parks, bars and restaurants.

The lockdown in France comes on the heels of similar lockdowns in Spain and in Italy which is at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has banned religious services and announced that virtually all public venues will be closed. Restaurants can stay open but will have to enforce a minimum distance between tables. Schools across the country have already been closed. Sweden announced earlier it was closing all high schools and universities from Wednesday.

At a meeting on Monday, Euro zone finance ministers pledged an "unlimited" commitment to fight the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic which has sent stock markets plunging across the world. The Ministers said they would do whatever it takes and more to restore confidence and a rapid recovery.

17 March 2020, 16:23