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Coronavirus: EU travel ban could extend until 15 May

The EU wants to continue the ban on non-essential travel to the EU until 15 May. Credit: Pixabay

The European Commission wants to extend the closure of its external borders until 15 May in the effort to fight the new coronavirus (Covid-19).

An initial ban on non-essential travel to the EU was approved on 17 March for an initial period of 30 days. However, “the experience of Member States and other countries exposed to the pandemic shows the measures applied to fight the spread of the virus require more than 30 days to be effective,” said the Commission in a press release on Thursday. 

“The Commission’s assessment of the current situation points to a continued rise in the number of new cases and deaths across the EU, as well as to the progression of the pandemic outside of the EU, including in countries from where millions of people usually travel to the EU every year,” the Commission said. “In this context, prolonging the travel restriction is necessary to reduce the risk of the disease spreading further.”

“While we can see encouraging first results, prolonging the travel restriction is necessary to continue reducing the risks of the disease spreading further. We should not yet let the door open whilst we are securing our house,” said Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas.

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Meanwhile, Commissioner for Home Affairs Yiva Johansson, added that the internal market must continue to function properly. “We will continue assisting Member States in all these strands of work,” Johansson said.

“Through regular discussions in videoconference meetings with Home Affairs Ministers,” the Commission will also keep assisting member states on keeping the ban in place.

The ban and the suggestion to extend it “applies to the ‘EU+ area’, which includes all Schengen Member States (…) and the 4 Schengen Associated States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland),” the Commission said.

It does not apply to EU or Schengen citizens and their family members, to non-EU nationals who are long-term residents in the EU, or to “specific categories of travellers with an essential function or need,” such as health care workers or seasonal agricultural workers.

If the borders do remain closed, “any further prolongation of the travel restriction beyond 15 May would need to be assessed again, based on the evolution of the epidemiological situation,” according to the Commission.

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times

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