The gradual but accelerating "quarantining" of the world into its constituent parts to halt the spread of the Coronavirus just took a major step moments ago, when the FT reported that European countries plan a ban on entry to the 26-state Schengen passport free travel zone in the most radical response yet to the continent’s escalating coronavirus pandemic.
The proposed action - expected to be announced later on Monday - and may be in response to the US ban of all flights from Europe for the next month, would cover all non-essential visits from third countries, with exemptions including for citizens of Schengen countries.
The ban is aimed at non-essential travel to the Schengen area in an effort to curb the coronavirus’s spread across Europe, officials said. The Schengen countries include 22 EU members, as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The five EU states not in Schengen - Ireland, Cyprus, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria - may also be invited to also implement the restrictions.
In short, virtually all tourism between the US and Europe is now indefinitely halted.
Exemptions to the ban under discussion include for EU citizens, residents and their family members, as well as workers in crucial sectors such as healthcare and transport, officials said.
As the FT adds, EU officials are currently still finalizing the sweeping move, which comes after a sharp rise in cases of infection in Europe triggered a wave of unilateral decisions by member states to all but seal their borders. The plan will still need to be signed off by national leaders, while officials stressed details remained under discussion and could change ahead of the announcement.
Predictably, the status of the UK - which is in a post-Brexit transition period after leaving the EU in January - was not immediately clear.
Diplomats told the FT that the measure was discussed on a phone call this morning between French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of the European Commission and Council.
On the call, Macron reportedly attacked national moves to close borders and called for a European response, although it seems he was promptly overruled.
Brussels is set to announce the plan after a videoconference among G7 leaders this afternoon.