Italy travel advice: Is it safe to visit amid coronavirus fears?

Simon Calder

Italy currently has the largest number of confirmed coronavirus patients within Europe.

A total of 229 people have tested positive for the virus, also known as Covid-19, while seven have died.

In response, the Italian government has introduced new "civil protection measures", which could affect travellers to the country.

The Foreign Office has advised against all but essential travel to 10 small towns in Lombardy: Codogno, Castiglione d’Adda, Casalpusterlengo, Fombio, Maleo, Somaglia, Bertonico, Terranova dei Passerini, Castelgerundo and San Fiorano. These are mainly southeast of Milan and were already in isolation.

There is also one town in Veneto, Vo’ Euganeo – south of Vicenza – that's also in isolation and falls under the same advice.

Many readers have contacted The Independent to ask about their rights if they decide to cancel trips to Italy.

At present, the Foreign Office does not advise against travel to Italy - except for the aforementioned towns - so holidays and business trips can continue as normal.

If you do want to cancel a holiday, you will likely lose most or all of your money - unless it's to one of the towns on lockdown.

As part of the new civil protection measures, the regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Piemonte and Emilia Romagna have announced the suspension of events that include meeting in public or private places, the suspension of schools and higher education and the suspension on the opening of museums and other cultural institutions for seven days.

Those who are already in the regions affected should follow the advice from local authorities.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said official advice, updated at 8am on Tuesday, has been changed to say that those who have been to northern Italy - north of Pisa - should self-isolate if they have flu-like symptoms.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he added: "If people have been to the affected areas that the Italian government have quarantined then they should self-isolate whether or not they have symptoms."

In Barcelona, Mobile World Congress was due to start yesterday but has been cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

As a result, there are thousands of bargain holidays – with British Airways selling return flights from Heathrow plus two nights in a three-star hotel in the Catalan capital for just £129.

In Asia, the Foreign Office is now warning against “against all but essential travel to Daegu and Cheongdo" in South Korea.

The government in Seoul has designated the cities as “special care zones” following a growing number of cases of coronavirus.

The FCO also warns that Covid-19 “may cause more severe symptoms in older people, and those with pre-existing medical conditions”.

The same warning applies to Japan. Meanwhile the US Centers for Disease Control is warning American visitors to Japan: “Older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing nonessential travel.”

The Department of Health has revealed that only nine of the 6,324 people tested for the virus so far in the UK have been found to be carrying it. This represents one-seventh of one per cent of the total. These figures do not yet include the confirmed cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

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