E.U. announces sweeping ban on most nonessential incoming travel

LONDON — The European Union on Tuesday announced a sweeping 30-day ban on most nonessential travel into the 27-country bloc.

There is still a need to guarantee passage of medicine, food stamps and citizens must be able to travel to home countries, European Council President Charles Michel said.

“We are ready to do everything that is required. We will not hesitate to take additional measures as the situation evolves,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

Though it is the world’s largest political and economic club, and has a combined population of some 450 million, the E.U. has limited powers in terms of what it can tell its members to do.

March 17, 202002:36

Its unity has frayed at different stages of the crisis, as individual states have pursued their own policies and Germany, for example, briefly banned the export of masks to beleaguered Italy.

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The measures were outlined by von der Leyen a day earlier. She said there would be “green lanes” at the borders of the 26 “Schengen Area” countries, to give fast access for food and medicine haulage, and the emergency services.

“We need to do more to reduce huge pressure on our healthcare system,” she said.

The Schengen Area is a zone including most E.U. states and a handful outside the bloc where it’s technically not necessary to show a passport at the border. (In reality there are several rolling restrictions between several member states.)

European countries continued to impose their own policies.

French President Emmanuel Macron told his people they were fighting a “war” against the virus and announced a nationwide lockdown for 15 days. And the U.K., until recently an E.U. member and still following most of its rules, advised against all nonessential travel to any country for the next month.

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