The European Union urged member countries Friday to put health screening procedures in place at their borders to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus but said they must co-ordinate so people can still quickly get the medical care they need.
With Italy reporting the most virus cases and deaths anywhere in the world except China, the pandemic is increasingly wearing on the EU’s cherished core principle, which envisions a border-free Europe where citizens can freely live, work and travel.
Countries that border Italy, including Austria, Slovenia and Switzerland have moved to reintroduce border controls and restrict traffic from outside. But several other EU nations, including Poland, Slovakia and Cyprus, announced restrictions that go far beyond travellers from Italy.
Poland’s prime minister said that starting at midnight Saturday, the country’s borders with all its neighbours would be closed and all foreigners denied entry unless they lived in Poland or had personal ties there. Non-citizens who are let in will be quarantined for 14 days.
Slovakia took similar action. An entry ban on foreign nationals in Cyprus only excepts European citizens if they live or work in the ethnically divided island nation. President Nicos Anastasiades said foreigners would also be prohibited from entering Cyprus’ internationally recognized south from the breakaway north.
More than 22,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed across Europe, and nearly 1,300 people with the virus have died on the continent.
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
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