European Union will close borders to slow pandemic

European Union member nations agreed Tuesday to close the EU’s external borders to most people from other countries for 30 days in a dramatic new effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the planned closings of the massive union’s external borders at a press conference.

Movement of people within the European Union’s 27 member nations will still be allowed under the restrictions.

The travel restrictions are due start as soon as the individual governments take the necessary internal measures, with Germany expected to do so by the end of Tuesday.

The restrictions are not applied to medical staff, medicines nor goods.

“The union and its member states will do whatever it takes,” said European Council President Charles Michel.

Michel said the EU will arrange for the repatriation of citizens of member countries.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said the United Kingdom is not applying restrictions to its external borders, even though it had been invited to do so.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel makes a press statement on the spread of the new coronavirus COVID-19 at the Chancellery, in Berlin on March 17, 2020.

John MacDougall | AFP | Getty Images

The EU is an economic and political union of most of the countries in Europe, including Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Benelux nations, Austria, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and all Scandavian countries with the exception of Norway.

Great Britain previously was an EU member before Brexit. Switzerland is another conspicuous non-member, as are most of the former component nations of communist Yugoslavia, with the exception of Croatia and Slovenia.

On Monday, Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said he was closing his nation’s borders to foreigners, with the major exception of U.S. citizens.

Also Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron ordered people in that nation to stay at home for up to 15 days, except for essential needs.