Coronavirus: Europe closes borders & bans travel – will holidaymakers be stranded?
European Union countries have announced that they will be shutting their borders from noon today for the next 30 days in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus. However, UK citizens are not yet being urged to return home, and are instead warned to keep an eye on the developing situation.
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Last night French President Emmanuel Macron announced the decision to France in a televised speech.
“All trips between non-European countries and the EU and the Schengen zone will be suspended for 30 days,” he said.
Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she would push for all member states to implement the measures on Monday.
“The less travel, the more we can contain the virus,” she said.
Long-term residents, family members of EU nationals and diplomats will still be able to pass through the EU’s internal borders, but external borders will remain closed to foreign nationals.
Healthcare workers and the transferring of goods will also be exempt from the ban.
For the people of France, rescue flights are being put in place to repatriate those who are currently abroad.
The UK’s Foreign Office has assured that the UK is not included in the border closure.
It suggests Britons in mainland Europe to remain up-to-date with the rapidly developing travel advice.
Since leaving the EU on January 31, the UK has been in a transition period while negotiating the future of the UK-EU relationship. It seems this transitional period allows for the UK to have some independence in determining whether it will put in place a border lockdown.
Ms von der Leyen clarified that the EU travel ban proposal would not apply to UK citizens.
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She said: “The UK citizens are European citizens so of course there are no restrictions for the UK citizens to travel to the continent.”
However, the FCO is now advising anyone with travel plans to reconsider. It urges Britons to avoid all but essential travel to over 35 countries.
Amongst them are China and the US, as well as heavily impacted regions in the EU such as Spain and Italy.
The European ban will cover 30 countries except for Ireland and the four non-EU countries in the Schengen open-border zone: Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland.
Britons are not anticipated to become stranded, though many airlines are now running reduced services or cancelling flights to certain regions.
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The move comes as demand for travel weakens, causing major financial concerns for many airlines.
Britons who are currently on holiday in affected countries within the EU should speak directly with their travel or tour operator to determine how to move forward.
Many airlines continue to offer rescue flights for those abroad, even if they are no longer running services to the country.
Among them are easyJet and Ryanair, who have assured they will help get Britons home during the pandemic.
RyanairCEO Michael O’Leary clarified this in a statement, saying: “At the Ryanair Group Airlines, we are doing everything we can to meet the challenge posed by the Covid-19 outbreak, which has over the last week caused extraordinary and unprecedented travel restrictions to be imposed by National Governments, in many cases with minimal or zero notice.
“We are communicating with all affected passengers by email and SMS, and we are organising rescue flights to repatriate customers, even in those countries where travel bans have been imposed.”
Meanwhile, TUI has also cancelled all holidays.
TUI said on Monday morning: “In this rapidly changing environment the safety and welfare of our guests and employees worldwide remains of paramount importance and thus Tui Group has decided, in line with government guidelines, to suspend the vast majority of all travel operations until further notice, including package travel, cruises and hotel operations.
“This temporary suspension is aimed at contributing to global governmental efforts to mitigate the effects of the spread of the Covid-19.”
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