Europe Under Lockdown: Continent Grinds to Halt, With Travel Ban & Factories Shut Down

Written by | Thursday, March 19th, 2020

As Europe has gradually become a continent of shuttered shops and factories and citizens seeking to minimize social contact, the European Union on Tuesday (17 March) approved a 30-day ban for non-essential travel to its 27 member states for people from non-member nations, designed as yet another measure to stem the spread of coronavirus. Following a three-hour videoconference among the EU heads of state and government that discussed the bloc’s further steps against the spread of the virus and preventing the economic fallout, the European Council’s President Charles Michel assured the European public that “all EU nationals will receive help to return home.” Another reason for the 30-day travel ban is an attempt to “reduce the huge pressure on our healthcare system,” European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, explained.
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 troops have been deployed to the streets of Spain, with police fining 199 people and arresting one person in Madrid for breaking the quarantine. In Austria, police have been ordered to children’s playgrounds to disperse groups of five or more people, while Vienna looked to tighten the country‘s borders from Tuesday. Germany and France have agreed to shut their border to all but essential crossings, while cafes and restaurants of Paris have served their last patrons for the foreseeable future. Supermarkets remain open in France, and food deliveries are also allowed, but coach, train and plane services between cities have all been reduced. In Greece, all shops apart from supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, petrol stations and food delivery services have also been closed. Anyone arriving from abroad will be placed in quarantine for two weeks to fight the coronavirus.
European shares plummeted to 2012 lows since Monday, with dramatic monetary easing by global central banks failing to reassure investors about the mounting economic damage and looming recession. Airlines and holiday operators including EasyJet, TUI, Air France–KLM or British Airways owner IAG were among the biggest decliners on the STOXX 600 as the pandemic brought global travel to a virtual standstill. Fiat–Chrysler, Volkswagen and other Europe’s leading car-making giants are suspending production for an indefinite period at their European plants. There is, however, also at least a glimmer of hope coming from Lombardy, the northern Italian region, that has suffered the biggest hit from Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak, which shows the first signs of a possible slowdown in contagion, its governor said on Monday (16 March). Still, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was less optimistic because “scientists are telling us that [for Italy, as a whole], the outbreak has not reached its peak; these weeks will be the most risky.”

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