The Covid-19 outbreak that began in Wuhan, China, has impacted travel across the world and the European Union is taking swift action to contain the spread of the virus within its borders. One of these initiatives involves limiting travel to countries within the EU. Germany’s Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn has all but confirmed that the EU is considering banning travelers who have been to China from entering the EU, among other measures.
He said during a meeting with France’s Agnes Buzyn, “Indeed, there is the question of possible travel restrictions or at least increased examination [of travelers] at the border.” One thing that Spahn emphasized is that the response will have to be uniform across all EU member states.
“It makes no sense that a single country takes measures on a continent with border-free travel between most nations.”
During their joint press conference, France’s Health Minister Agnes Buzyn commented that, “There is no sense in one country taking this type of decision while citizens move around freely. We would like closer cooperation so that we have exactly the same measures in all countries in order to be consistent in Europe since there is this free movement of people, and we wish to maintain this free movement.”
Meanwhile, many countries outside of France are suspending Schengen visa admissions until the novel coronavirus outbreak is under control. Italy’s far-right Northern League party is even considering suspending the Schengen agreement temporarily. The coronavirus crisis is a particularly poignant issue for Italian politicians as the extent of the virus’ spread there is shocking and thus far has been difficult to trace.
Broader suspensions could be on the table should the outbreak get worse. If the virus keeps spreading at the current tempo, the EU may introduce extended entry restrictions to Chinese nationals and recent visitors to mainland China. Suspension of visa issuance for the nationals of a few countries in addition to China, is also an option if the situation does not improve for the better.
The impact of the coronavirus on travel-related industries is also palpable as multiple airlines have suspended flights to China entirely. Concerns over the spread of the coronavirus have even called into consideration plans to cancel the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Even so, there are many experts who predict that the coming spring and summer seasons in the northern hemisphere could limit the spread of the virus and thus blunt any kind of negative economic impact it has over the coming months.