In a drastic move to contain the coronavirus outbreak, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday said that the European Union will impose an entry ban on travellers from outside the bloc for 30 days. The leader said the EU's 27 member states agreed to impose an entry ban into the bloc, with only nationals of EFTA (European Free Trade Association) countries and the UK exempt from the restriction.
Angela Merkel said the EU's new order will be implemented in Germany with immediate effect. With countries severely curtailing travel to prevent COVID-19 contagion, Germany had earlier issued a warning against travel worldwide. "The bloc is taking coordinated action to bring back stranded travellers," Merkel held. Earlier, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that thousands of Germans were stranded abroad as airlines slashed flights and borders closed.
Europe, now the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic as surging cases overtake China, has so far reported over 63,000 cases across the region. The virus has infected more than 185,000 people worldwide and killed nearly 7,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. Most European nations have shut schools, restricted transport and ordered the closure of public places like shopping malls and sports venues. Italy, worst-hit on the continent, is under complete lockdown.
The World Health Organization had earlier called for the "boldest actions" against the pandemic on the continent.
Speaking on the entry, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, "We are ready to do everything that is required. We will not hesitate to take additional measures as the situation evolves." She also informed that there would be "green lanes" at the borders of the 26 "Schengen Area" countries to give fast access for food and medicine haulage and emergency services.