March 16, 2020 / 3:13 PM / 19 days ago

Europe looks to suspend incoming travel over coronavirus: sources

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe is looking to ban foreign nationals from coming into the Schengen open border zone, two sources said, as the continent scrambles to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The Schengen zone consists of 22 of the 27 European Union member states, as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein. Britain and Ireland are not part of it.

Both sources expected EU leaders to discuss the matter during a video conference on Tuesday on the health crisis.

One EU official said the bloc’s executive European Commission prepared a proposal to suspend for 30 days visits of non-EU and non-Schengen nationals. Exceptions would cover medical workers and other “essential” travel.

A second EU official said: “The idea is being discussed with a view to avoid putting the health services under even more strain. But it remains to be seen what EU leaders decide on Tuesday, whether non-EU Schengen countries join, whether we coordinate with Britain and Ireland too.”

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by Philip Blenkinsop

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