Germany closes borders to slow virus

Germany has become the latest country to close borders as European nations try to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Its borders with France, Austria and Switzerland were shut on Monday morning, except for commercial traffic.

France is considering more stringent lockdowns, with its health chief saying the situation is “deteriorating fast”.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has proposed a temporary ban on non-essential travel to the European Union (EU).

The measure would initially last for 30 days, and long-term residents in the European Union, family members of EU nationals and diplomats would be exempt as well as cross-border and healthcare workers and people transporting goods.

The restriction must be approved by the 26 states that make up the borderless Schengen area. Non-Schengen members – including the UK – would be invited to take part.

There have been more than 174,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and over 6,700 deaths, according to a tally from John Hopkins University.

The World Health Organisation last week said Europe was now the “epicentre” of the virus and urged governments to act aggressively to control the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Leaders of the G7 nations are to hold a video conference on Monday to discuss a joint response to the pandemic.

Central banks around the world, including the US Federal Reserve and those in the UK, Japan, Canada, and Switzerland have cut interest rates and taken other measures to try to curb the economic turmoil.

But stock markets in Asia and Europe still fell and, on Wall Street, trading was temporarily halted after the S&P 500 index dropped 8 per cent on opening. It was the third time in six days that the session was interrupted.

The EU’s Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said a recession was now expected, with a 2-2.5 per cent negative growth.

Airlines are also continuing to slash flights as demand slumps.

Germany had tried to resist closing its borders, to try to keep the Schengen agreement working, but traffic crossing the borders with the three neighbours and also Luxembourg will now be restricted to goods and people commuting for work.

The aim is to stem the spread of the virus but also to curtail cross-border panic-buying, German media reported.

Only the borders with the Netherlands and Belgium are as yet unaffected. -BBC

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