Coronavirus: EC proposes entry ban for 30 days on non-essential travel from non-EU countries

The European Commission proposed on March 16 a ban, effective for 30 days, on entry to the EU of non-EU nationals as a measure against the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus.

The EC proposed that this should include entry to all Schengen member states, as well as Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania, as well as the four Schengen associated states. It would also include Ireland and the United Kingdom if they decide to align, the Commission said.

The temporary travel restriction should apply to all non-essential travel from third countries to the EU+ area.

For such a temporary travel restriction to have the desired effect in terms of restricting the spread of the virus, exceptions need to be limited to travel for essential purposes, the Commission said.

The temporary travel restriction must exempt nationals of all EU member states and Schengen Associated States for the purposes of returning to their homes, the EC said.

Also exempted would be third-country (meaning, non-EU) nationals who are long-term residents under the Long-term Residence Directive and people deriving their right to reside from other EU Directives or national law or who hold national long-term visas.

It should also not apply to other travellers with an essential function or need, including health care professionals, health researchers, and elderly care professionals, frontier workers, transport personnel engaged in haulage of goods and other transport staff to the extent necessary, diplomats, staff of international organisations, military personnel and humanitarian aid workers in the exercise of their functions, passengers in transit, passengers travelling for imperative family reasons, people in need of international protection or for other humanitarian reasons.

Coordinated and reinforced health checks should be carried out for the individuals allowed to enter the EU+ area, the EC said.

Travel restrictions should focus on drastically reducing incoming people flows at the external borders of the Union, thereby also slowing transmission to other countries on travellers’ return, and discouraging outgoing travel of EU citizens and other persons residing in the EU+ area, it said.

The Commission called on the European Council to rapidly adopt the measure.

“The EU’s external border has to act as a security perimeter for all Schengen States. It is of common interest and a common responsibility. In the current circumstances, with the coronavirus now widespread throughout the EU, the external border regime offers the opportunity of concerted action among Member States to limit the global spread of the virus.”

A temporary travel restriction could only be effective if decided and implemented by Schengen States for all external borders at the same time and in a uniform manner, the statement said.

“Uncoordinated travel restrictions by individual Member States for their parts of external borders risk being ineffective. Any unilateral decision of a Schengen State to apply a temporary travel restriction at its own part of the external borders could be easily undermined by those who would enter the Schengen area at another part of the external borders: likewise a coordinated decision requires the participation of all.”

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The Sofia Globe staff

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