With major European countries including Italy, Spain and France unilaterally heightening their travel restrictions, and now in strict shutdown mode, the EU has decided to introduce a unified ban across the whole continent. Travellers from outside the EU will be banned for 30 days as part of ongoing efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The unprecedented restrictions are being imposed on the external borders of 26 EU states, while non-EU members Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are also expected to adhere to the ban. UK citizens will reportedly not be affected, but the UK and the Republic of Ireland (the latter, part of the EU but not Schengen) will be invited to sign up to the measure.
The travel ban applies to all non-EU nationals visiting the bloc, except long-term residents, family members of EU nationals and diplomats, cross-border and healthcare workers, and people transporting goods.
Announcing the measure, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said, “The coronavirus pandemic is testing us all. This is not only an unprecedented challenge for our healthcare systems, but also a major shock for our economies. We stand ready to do more as the situation evolves. We will do whatever is necessary to support the Europeans and the European economy.”
Although freedom of movement is an enshrined principle within the border-free Schengen area in Europe, several EU members have implemented their own full or partial border restrictions over the past week, led initially by Italy – specifically affecting the Lombardy region and its capital of Milan.
The measures were agreed in a video-summit between EU leaders on Tuesday afternoon but have to be implemented by member states. “They said they will immediately do that,” said Ursula von der Leyen at a press conference. “This is good, so that we have a unanimous and united approach (where) the external borders are concerned.” She said it was also crucial that the EU “unblocks the situation” with regards to closed internal borders, because “too many people are stranded”.
Passengers using Malpensa Airport are strongly recommended to double-check with their airlines and national government travel advice websites for up-to-date information. For live flight details, click here.