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European Union closes all external borders for 30 days

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People can still travel within the EU

Merkel Holds Press Conference As Authorities Tighten Measures To Stem Coronavirus Spread Photo by Maja Hitij - Pool/Getty Images

The European Union is locking down its borders with all other nations. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced today that all external borders for countries within the group will close for 30 days for nonessential travel. People within the EU’s 27 member nations can still travel between those countries, although there will be some restrictions, and Europeans stranded abroad will be repatriated.

People returning to their home country might be asked to isolate themselves for two weeks, possibly away from their families. Medical staff, medicine, and goods won’t be restricted across external borders. The rules will start whenever the various national governments can prepare themselves, which will be as soon as the end of the day today in Germany.

The EU includes countries particularly hard hit by COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, including Spain, Italy, France, and Germany. The decision follows Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing yesterday that he’d be closing his country’s border to everyone but Canadians and US citizens. Last week, US President Donald Trump banned travel from all European countries into the nation. Trump initially exempted the UK and Ireland, but he expanded the ban a few days later. Many other countries have restricted travel from abroad and even limited their own citizens’ movement at home. (The New York Times has created a comprehensive list of those decisions.)

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed governments to not only encourage local social distancing, but also to limit the number of people entering their countries in an effort to stop the virus from spreading further. Europe closing its borders is one of the biggest expressions of that strategy yet.

Update 3/17, 4:37 PM ET: Updated to include more details about exemptions and restrictions.