Brussels’ Schengen free-travel zone will see third party nationals, excluding doctors, medical staff and cross-boarder workers, ban from making all non-essential into the bloc. UK and Irish nationals will not be part of the sweeping travel bans, as eurocrats consider plans to maintain travel with non-Schengen members. Britain will remain exempt because of the post-Brexit transition period until at least the end of next year.
EU Commisison President Ursula von der Leyen said: “The UK citizens are European citizens, so, of course, there are no restrictions for the UK citizens to travel to the Continent.”
A Commission dossier adds: “Ireland and the United Kingdom, taking into account the Common Travel Area, are encouraged to also implement this temporary travel restriction.”
The move is expected to be agreed by European leaders tomorrow during a special phone conference.
The measures come after telephone discussions between France’s Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Angela Merkel, the Commission’s Ursula von der Leyen and Council’s Charles Michel.
The French President is understood to have attacked national moves to shut borders and called for a EU-wide response.
Mrs von der Leyen said the bloc’s healthcare systems are under huge pressure, insisting the border measures should be implemented to stop the spread of coronavirus.
She, however, said the bans should include “fast lanes” that allow medical goods, food and emergency services to be able to cross the border.
“These travel restrictions should be in place through an initial 30-day period,” the Commission chief added.
“We know that everything that reduces social interaction also reduces the speed of the spread of the virus, the less travel, the more we can contain the virus.”
The Commisison will ask EU leaders’ permission to enforce the travel ban as early as Wednesday during a telephone call tomorrow.
Italy, the worst hit country outside of China, has called for more to be done to save ailing businesses during the crisis.
Prime minister Giuseppe Conte also said European leaders will have to come together after the crisis to “rewrite” the rules of the EU’s single market.
He accused Brussels bureaucrats of leaving businesses and households at risk from financial meltdown by not sanctioning sufficient rescue measures.
“The approved measures are not sufficient,” he told Italian daily newspaper Corriere Della Sera.
Damage will be serious and widespread. A true ‘reconstruction plan’ will be needed.
“After the coronavirus nothing will be as before, we will have to sit down and rewrite the rules of trade and the free market.”
Mr Conte has already unveiled an economic support package of £22.7 billion, with a cabinet meeting scheduled today to see if new measures can be approved.
The Italian leader said: “We are responding within rules that will allow our economy to face the costs of the emergency.
“We are ready, if necessary, to intervene again to relaunch the country.”
Italy is the second worst hit country after China, where the coronavirus originated late last year.
The outbreak shows no signs of slowing as it emerged the death toll had reached 1,809 by yesterday, increasing some 368 in a day, the largest daily rise to date.
The total number of cases continued to rise, reaching 24,747 after a jump of 3,590 in 24 hours.