Following the intensification of the Coronavirus outbreak, the European Union has moved on to take the necessary steps to prevent a possible spread of the virus in its territory.
Europe has taken measures at a time when eight cases of infected persons were detected within its territory, four of which in France and four others in Germany, by activating a mechanism that enables the member states to improve prevention, preparedness and response to disasters, both natural and man-made.
Within the frame of this mechanism’s activation, the EU may go to extra lengths to prevent the virus from further spreading into its territory.
Sources of SchengenVisaInfo.com within the European Union have confirmed that the block is preparing to tighten entry conditions for Chinese nationals and those who have traveled to China in recent months, in a bid to prevent the situation getting out of control.
“Immediately after the outbreak of the Coronavirus, representatives of the Member States have been summoned by France, where by the way, have already been detected at least two cases of Coronavirus infection. The block has already decided to activate the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, but if the virus keeps spreading at the current tempo, the EU may introduce entry restrictions by the end of the week to Chinese nationals and recent visitors to mainland China,” one of the sources said.
The source could not, however, give any assurance whether by “entry restrictions” the EU was planning to bar nationals of the affected countries from entering, or only by imposing more screening procedures.
“Suspension of visa issuance for the nationals of a few countries in addition to China, is also an option, if the situation does not improve for the better, of course,” the source confirms.
EU’s move comes immediately after three Asian countries restricted visa issuance to Chinese nationals. These countries are Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Kazakhstan. Immediately after them the Philippines and Singapore followed announcing visa restrictions for residents of the Hubei province.
EU Activates Civil Protection Mechanism
On Tuesday, January 28, the European Commission announced a decision of the block to activate the EU Civil Protection Mechanism following a request for assistance from France to provide consular support to EU citizens in Wuhan, China.
“As the Coronavirus outbreak intensifies, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has been activated on request from France. Two planes will be mobilized to repatriate EU citizens from the Wuhan area to Europe,” the European Commission announced first through twitter.
EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič announced in a press release of the Commission that two aircraft will be mobilized through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to repatriate EU citizens from the Wuhan area to Europe.
“Our EU Emergency Response Coordination Centre is working 24/7 and is in constant contact with the Member States, the EU Delegations in the region and the Chinese embassy in Brussels. Further EU support can be mobilized if requested,” he said.
Whereas, the Commissioner responsible for Health and Food Security Stella Kyriakides said that the Commission stands ready to support the Member States and ensure a strong and coordinated EU response to the developing situation of the Coronavirus, outside and within the Union.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and remain in close contact with our Member States,” she said.
The EU Civil Protection Mechanism is a tool that strengthens cooperation between the Member States and the Participating States in the field of civil protection, with a view to improving prevention, preparedness and response to disasters.
When the scale of an emergency overwhelms the response capabilities of a country, it can request assistance via the Mechanism. Once activated, the Mechanism coordinates assistance made available by its Member States/Participating States through spontaneous offers.
EU Airlines and Airports’ Response to Coronavirus Outbreak
British Airways has become the first airline to suspend all flights to mainland China, following a warning of the UK Foreign Office to its citizens on travel to China.
“We have suspended all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect following advice from the Foreign Office against all but essential travel,” the company said in a statement.
Whereas, a senior press expert from the Stuttgart Airport told SchengenVisaInfo.com that currently there are no restraints due to the virus as the Stuttgart Airport has no direct flights to China, Japan or adjacent countries.
“So far, the authorities in charge do not have imposed any measures, nor do we know about upcoming requirements. In order to inform our passengers and visitors in the terminal building, posters in German, English, and Chinese give advice regarding hygiene,” the expert said.
The deadly Coronavirus has expanded to almost 20 countries, while the death toll had reached over 130 people and about 6000 cases have been reported.
The Chinese city of Wuhan, home to 11 million in residents, in the Hubei province is the epicenter of the disease, which as of January 23, 2020, has been shut down. Airports and railways in Wuhan have also shut down to prevent a further spread of the virus.