A temporary restriction on all non-essential travel to the EU for a period of 30 days has been proposed by the European Commission.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen issued the guidelines on foreign travel to the EU today in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The border closure would cover 30 countries but essential staff and people transporting goods would be exempt from the ban.
The @EU_Commission presents guidelines on border measures & proposes:
1⃣Green lanes/fast lanes giving priority to essential transport to keep the mobility sector going & ensure economic continuity
2⃣Temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU (30 days) pic.twitter.com/9bda9MntF0
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) March 16, 2020
President von der Leyen said: “Our measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak will be effective only if we coordinate on the European level.
"We have to take exceptional measures to protect the health of our citizens.
But let's make sure goods and essential services continue to flow in our internal market. This is the only way to prevent shortages of medical equipment or food.
"It's not only an economic issue: our single market is a key instrument of European solidarity. I am in discussion with all Member States so that we confront this challenge together, as a Union.”
The Commission said that Member States may reintroduce internal border controls for public policy reasons, which may include public health during extremely critical situations.
EU countries should carry out health screening on one side of the border only and "all border controls should be applied in a proportionate manner and with due regard to people's health".
Additionally, Member States must always admit their own citizens and residents, the Commission said, and should facilitate other EU citizens and residents that are returning home.
Globally, more than 169,000 people are infected with the new coronavirus and over 6,500 have died.
The announcement comes as Ryanair said it expects to see the majority of its European fleet grounded in the coming days.
The airline said it expects to reduce its seat capacity by up to 80% within the next seven to 10 days, while Aer Lingus owner IAG said it was reducing capacity by at least 75% for the next two months.