Coronavirus: Countries go into lockdown to halt spread of Covid-19

17 March 2020, 06:41

The FCO has warned Brits not to travel to 30 countries
The FCO has warned Brits not to travel to 30 countries. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Borders around the globe have slammed shut in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic with Canada, Norway and Denmark among the latest countries to go into lockdown.

A host of countries have announced emergency border closures in a bid to impede the spread of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 6,000 people.

On Monday the Foreign Office (FCO) issued travel advice warnings telling Brits not to visit 30 countries due to the risk from Covid-19 or the risk of becoming stranded due to quarantine measures.

Read more: Coronavirus - Who should self-isolate and for how long?

The European Union has laid out plans for a 30-day closure of its borders for non-residents, although senior figures are keen that borders between member states remain open.

France's president says there will be coordinated action by members of the Schengen Area, which does not have passport control.

Many European countries have already announced their own containment measures to try and get a grip on the pandemic, including shutting their doors to foreign nationals.

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Here is a rundown of the latest measures taken by countries around the world and the FCO's guidance.

North America


Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday the country would be partially closing its borders in response to Covid-19.

Non-Canadian citizens will be refused entry, although US citizens are exempt from the ban.

Also exempt are permanent residents, immediate family of Canadian citizens, diplomats and aircrew.

- United States

On March 14, the US government extended an existing European travel ban to the UK and Ireland, with the exception of returning US citizens and legal residents.

The FCO subsequently updated its advice on March 15 and advised against all but essential travel to the whole country.

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Central and South America

The FCO also advises against all but essential travel to Argentina, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay and Peru for UK nationals due to the risk of being placed into quarantine and the possibility of becoming stranded due to travel restrictions.

Read more: Coronavirus UK: Do surgical face masks work to avoid virus symptoms?

Europe and the EU

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the EU Commission, outlined plans for a 30-day ban on Monday on all non-essential travel to the 27 member state.

Long-term residents, family members of EU nationals, diplomats and those on the frontline of dealing with the crisis would be exempt.

Also exempt would be freight drivers, Mrs Von der Leyan said, adding: "The flow of goods to the European Union must continue to secure the supply of goods, including essential items such as medicine, but also food and components that our factories need."

Meanwhile, many individual states and non-member nations have taken matters into their own hands.


France has announced some of the most strident measures on its own citizens, including the closure of all non-essential businesses such as shops, cafes, restaurants and cinemas and ski resorts, as well as schools, nurseries and universities.

On Monday evening, President Emmanuel Macron warned any French citizens that flout the ban could face "sanctions".

In a televised address, he said: "We are at a war: A health war.

"We fight not against an army, or against another nation, but the enemy is there - it advances and that requires national mobilisation."

- Italy

The hardest-hit European nation so far with more than 1,800 deaths, the FCO advises against all but essential travel to all of Italy, including Sicily and Sardinia.

The country is in lockdown and the Italian authorities have advised against travel for tourism purposes and said tourists already on holiday in Italy should limit their movements to those necessary to return to the place where they live.

- Spain

Spain introduced a state of emergency on March 14 banning public gatherings and temporarily closing all non-essential business.

The FCO advises against all but essential travel to the country.

Read more: Family self-isolated due to 'people’s fears' over coronavirus

- Greece

From Monday, everyone arriving in Greece from abroad is required to self-isolate for 14 days. The government has also prohibited the docking of cruise ships and sail boats in Greek ports.

All cafes, bars and restaurants have been ordered to close, along with shopping centres, cinemas and theatres as well as the majority of leisure and sporting activities.

Supermarkets, bakeries, pharmacies and takeaway food services continue to operate.

- Cyprus

A state of emergency was declared in the country on Sunday. All hotels and tourist accommodation have been instructed to close by Saturday until April 30.

The FCO has advised against all but essential travel to Cyprus and is urging people to follow the advice of the Cypriot authorities, including leaving their tourist accommodation by March 21.

- Denmark

British nationals are advised against all but essential travel to the whole country, after Danish authorities announced they would be closing the borders for a month in response to the pandemic.

Foreign nationals who "do not have a recognised purpose for entering Denmark" will be barred from entry.

- Poland

The FCO advises against all but essential travel to the country, owing to restrictions being put in place following the outbreak, which has seen borders closed and border controls introduced.

Non-Polish nationals will only be able to enter the country if they are a spouse or child of a Polish national, hold a Pole's Card, or otherwise have the right to stay or work in the country.

- Slovenia

The Slovenian government has announced the cancellation of air traffic from 11.59pm on Monday, leaving those travelling to the country at risk of becoming stranded.

The Slovenian border with Austria remains open for UK nationals, but the FCO has warned there will be no direct flights between Austria and the UK from midnight on Monday and has advised against all but essential travel.

- Hungary

The Hungarian government has announced a state of emergency and said on Monday it would be closing its borders to all foreigners, with only Hungarian citizens permitted to enter.

The UK government has advised British nationals in Hungary who wish to leave to do so as soon as possible, due to a number of neighbouring countries announcing airport and border closures.

- Norway

The Norwegian authorities have said that all non-resident visitors arriving from countries other than Finland and Sweden would be asked to leave Norway on arrival, prompting the FCO to advise against all but essential travel.

British nationals legally resident in Norway will be allowed to enter the country but must enter self-quarantine for 14 days.

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and Norwegian Airlines have announced they will be cancelling 80% of their flights from Monday.

The UK government has urged all British nationals in Norway who wish to leave in the near future to consider doing so now while there are still some flights available.

- Montenegro

The FCO is advising against all but essential travel to Montenegro due to the government's decision to introduce measures including a ban on entry to all foreigners save for freight vehicle drivers and those with a permanent or temporary residence permit.

Other measures include the closure of all bars and restaurants, as well as all shops excluding food shops and pharmacies.

British nationals wishing to leave are urged to do so as soon as possible.

- Serbia

Serbia has temporarily banned entry for foreigners, although its own citizens and those with a temporary or permanent residence permit are still allowed to enter.

All international arrivals who do have permission to enter will be required to self-isolate for at least 14 days, while those arriving from Italy, Romania, Spain, Germany, France, Austria, Slovenia and Greece must self-isolate for 28 days.

The FCO advises against all but essential travel to the country, and asks those wishing to leave to make arrangements to do so as soon as possible.

-Elsewhere in Europe

The FCO has advised against all but essential travel to the Czech Republic, Estonia, Malta, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, parts of Portugal, Albania, Kosovo and San Marino, citing reasons including travel restrictions and flight cancellations, the risk of being placed into quarantine and the risk of contracting the virus.


- China

The FCO advises against all travel to Hubei province due to the outbreak, and against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China. If you are in China and able to leave, the FCO says you should do so.

- Indonesia

The FCO advises against all travel to two parts of the country close to Mount Agung and Mount Sinabung craters due to ongoing volcanic activity.

The department advises against all but essential travel to the rest of the country due to a 14-day quarantine requirement.

-Elsewhere in Asia

The FCO advises against all but essential travel to the South Korean cities of Daegu, Cheongdo and Gyeongsan which have been designated "special care zones" by authorities due to outbreaks, as well as to Burma, Mongolia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.

Travellers to these countries face becoming stranded due to travel restrictions, being placed in quarantine or of potentially catching the virus.


- Kenya

The FCO advises against all but essential travel to Kenya after authorities there announced measures restricting people, other than Kenyan citizens and resident permit holders, from going if they have travelled through countries affected by coronavirus, including the UK.

The restrictions will come into effect from Tuesday.

- South Africa

The FCO advises against all but essential travel to South Africa following restrictions announced limiting who can enter the country.

Authorities said travellers from high-risk countries, including the UK and US, would not be permitted to enter the country from March 18.

Visitors from high-risk countries, including the UK, who have entered the country since mid-February will be required to present themselves for testing.

- Egypt

The country announced on Monday evening that flights to and from Egypt will be suspended from midday on Thursday until March 31, and the FCO has advised against all but essential travel to the region.

Those already in the country are advised to immediately arrange their departure.

- Elsewhere in Africa

The countries of Liberia, Malawi, Morocco, Sierra Leone are also considering travel restrictions and enforced quarantine on travellers from high-risk countries such as the UK, prompting the FCO to advise against all but essential travel to those countries.

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New Zealand and Australia

In New Zealand, arrivals from countries other than China and Iran will have to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival, the department said. Foreign nationals arriving from China or Iran will not be allowed to enter the country.

In Australia, the government announced that all persons including its own citizens arriving from abroad would be required to self-isolate for 14 days.