Coronavirus pandemic exposes 'fragmented' bloc as Brussels wields 'sledgehammer — European Union panic

Cheryl Sanders
March 18, 2020

"It's up to them now to implement", von der Leyen said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to the media following a video call she had with other leaders and heads of states of the European Union at the Chancellery on March 17.

President of the European Council Charles Michel has announced EU's external borders will be closed for 30 days to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

EU to restrict non-essential international travel to slow coronavirus spread

"The European Union disapproves of the fact that the US decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation", Michel and von der Leyen said in the statement.

Exemptions are included for long-term residents of the European Union and family members of European Union residents and diplomats.

Von der Leyen said most European Union states have already shown "strong support" for the plan, which will be discussed in further detail via a video conference on Tuesday among all 27 national governments. While the United Kingdom and Ireland were initially exempted from the restrictions, Trump announced their inclusion on Saturday.

She added frontier workers who legally commute across the border from neighbouring countries and people transporting goods would also be excluded. He said the 27 European Union countries agreed to impose border restrictions on tourism and non-essential business "as fast as possible".

Such lockdowns are not only seen as threats for the Union itself but now may end up thwarting supplies to produce the medical equipment needed to stave off the pandemic.

European states have developed different methods of trying to stem the virus's spread but several have introduced similar restrictions, with France banning gatherings of more than 1,000 people and closing schools.

"The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the challenge of protecting the health of the population whilst avoiding disruptions to the free movement of persons, and the delivery of goods and essential services across Europe", said the European Commission in a note to its member states. They said they will immediately do that'.

French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, tightened internal guidelines, allowing people to leave home only to buy food, go to work or do essential tasks, saying that people hadn't complied with earlier guidelines and "we are at war".

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