Travel restrictions expand in Europe as coronavirus crisis deepens

Turkey has banned entry for travellers from nine European countries to stem the spread of the coronavirus, the Interior Ministry said, joining a growing list of nations imposing restrictions on visitors, Germany among them.

Besides Germany, all borders are also closed to people coming from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden starting at 8 am (0500 GMT) on Saturday.

Citizens of these nine countries are allowed to leave Turkey.

Other third-country citizens, who have been in these countries over the past 14 days, are also not allowed to enter Turkey, the ministry said.

Turkish citizens are “temporarily” suspended from travelling to the countries, the ministry said.

Turkey on Friday said it was suspending flights to these nine countries until April 17, starting at the same time of border closure.

Germany was recommending that all people who have recently been to Italy, Austria or Switzerland isolate themselves for two weeks, regardless if they have symptoms or not.

Millions of students across Germany will also be staying home starting next week as most of the country’s 16 states have temporarily closed public schools and daycares.

Europe is now the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic, surpassing China as the world’s coronavirus hot spot, according to comments made by the chief of the World Health Organization.

In the Czech Republic, earlier announced border restrictions came into effect as of Saturday.

Germans, Austrians, Swiss and citizens of a further twelve states considered a high epidemic risk will no longer be allowed to enter the Central European state, while Czechs are not allowed, with some exceptions, to travel to Germany and Austria.

As of Monday, the entry ban will be extended to all foreigners.

The country also decided overnight to close restaurants and stores offering non-essential goods for the next 10 days. Grocery stores, pharmacies, pet food stores, health and beauty stores, optician offices and company canteens will remain open.

The Czech Republic has to date recorded 150 cases of the new coronavirus.

Denmark and Poland said Friday they were banning entry to foreigners while other European countries have announced new controls at their borders. Russia said on Saturday it was suspending entry to non-Russians from neighbouring Poland and Norway.

Travel by planes and trains has also been curtailed as operators slash routes or cut back service across the continent.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s 30-day travel ban on flights from the 26-nation Schengen area – an open border area within Europe – has gone into force. The measure prevents many non-US citizens from flying to the US, although Britain and Ireland are not affected.

In Italy, the worst affected country in the world outside of China, there are more than 17,000 infections and 1,266 dead, and hospitals are straining to treat an escalating number of patients.

Amid a national lockdown that has been going on since Tuesday, people are trying to keep their spirits up with balcony singalongs and other flashmob events.

The government has closed all shops except those selling essential items like groceries and pharmacies, and urged everyone to stay home unless for work, health or urgent needs.

Rome, Milan and several other cities adopted further restrictions, closing down public parks.

“We need three of four weeks of isolation to overcome the coronavirus. We need to say it clearly,” Professor Stefano Vella, a public health expert at Rome’s Cattolica university, told Il Foglio newspaper.

Sweden on Saturday recorded its second coronavirus fatality, a woman in her mid-80s who had underlying health issues.

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