EU agrees on 30-day travel ban to slow coronavirus spread

World Health Organization regional director for Europe Hans Henri P. Kluge, said that 152 countries were now affected by COVID-19

The novel coronavirus has so far claimed nearly 8000 lives across the globe
The novel coronavirus has so far claimed nearly 8000 lives across the globe

EU leaders have agreed on a 30 day travel ban to and from Europe as they fight to contain the deadly coronavirus.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the proposal had strong support from member states and that it was “up to them now to implement. They said they will immediately do that."

At a press briefing on Tuesday night, World Health Organization regional director for Europe Hans Henri P. Kluge, said that 152 countries were now affected by COVID-19.  This has created a "new reality" for millions of people across the world, he said.

"Europe is the epicenter of the first pandemic of coronavirus and every country, with no exceptions, need to take their boldest actions to stop or slow down the virus spread. Boldest action should include community action. Thinking that “this does not concern me” is not an option," he said.

Italy now has nearly a third of the world's deaths from coronavirus as Rome announced 345 more fatalities on Tuesday, taking the countries death toll to more than 2,500.

Global deaths from the outbreak which has moved from China to Europe, are inching closer to 8000 and currently stand at around 7,800.

Italy's civil protection agency said there had been a further 3,500 new infections and that intensive care beds were full in Bergamo, a city in the worst-hit region of Lombardy.

Italy, which has the world's second-oldest population after Japan, has been hit full-force by the virus, which seems to be deadlier for the elderly and infirm. The entire country remains on a strict lockdown, but this has so far failed to stop the tide of new infections.

France began its own lockdown on Tuesday, joining its neighbour Spain.

The UK - which saw 400 new cases in just 24 hours - has urged its nationals to practise social distancing and stay away from bars, clubs and restaurants. But, unlike some other European countries, they remain open, as do schools.

On Tuesday, the UK announced €360 billion in loans and credit to British businesses to protect them against any fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Madrid announced its own €200 billion euro stimulus package.

The UK's NHS has stopped all non-urgent elective surgery to increase hospitals' capacity for coping with an increase in infections.

In the meantime, tests on an experimental vaccine to protect against the new coronavirus have begun in the United States, the first of many efforts around the world to create a vaccine as cases continue to grow. But experts warn it could take up to 18 months to finalize.

Air Malta suspends all commercial flights as of Friday at midnight 

In a statement, Air Malta said it was suspending all commercial flights as of Friday 20 March from midnight onwards until further notice.

Air Malta said this was measure was taken to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

This ban does not apply to the ferry, cargo and humanitarian and repatriation or special flights. Air Malta said it would operate such flights as directed by the Government of Malta.

Those customers affected by this ban should do the following:

  1. Maltese Nationals affected from this travel ban and who are currently outside Malta need to contact the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs Office. Residents can contact this office on +356 22042200 or by email on [email protected] The ministry will be organising repatriation flights.
  2. Non-Maltese Nationals need to contact their respective Embassies.
  3. Customers who were to start their trip within the next 48 hours and have queries about their tickets can contact the Airline’s call centre on +356 25991230.
  4. Customers who will not be travelling within the next 48 hours and all other passengers that require refunds can send an email to [email protected].

Those wishing to keep update with Air Malta are encouraged to check the airline's website www.airmalta.com and social media channels including www.facebook.com/AirMalta/.  

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