At 8 AM on March 16th Germany partially closed its borders with Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, and Switzerland to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. Although goods and cross-border commuters can still enter and leave the country, other travelers are being turned away. The measures are an abrupt reversal by Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, who had only days ago vowed to avoid such action. Later that day Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, proposed a 30-day halt to non-essential travel from across the external borders of the EU (and of members of the Schengen free-travel zone).
Similar measures are being taken all over the world. In the past week, after declaring the coronavirus outbreak a national emergency, President Donald Trump banned most arrivals into America from 28 European countries. Similar restrictions had already been imposed on arrivals from China and Iran. Canada is closing its borders to anyone, not a citizen or a resident (although Americans will be exempt). Saudi Arabia has placed restrictions on travelers from over 30 countries. Kenya has gone even further, banning travel from any country with confirmed cases of covid-19 (by March 16th there were more than 150 such countries). More than 80 states now have some form of travel ban or flight suspension in place, according to Mayer Brown, a law firm (see map).