Travel warning: Italy goes into lockdown as coronavirus rages – is it safe to visit?

Coronavirus has swept the globe, with confirmed cases in 35 countries. However, Italy has seen a rapid surge in cases, with 157 suffers and three fatalities over the weekend.


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Panic has risen amongst holidaymakers jetting off to the country, with reports of a grounded plane at Heathrow as passengers grew fearful of flying to the infected region.

Meanwhile, Italian authorities have placed parts of the country on lockdown, instilling heavy-handed prosecutions for anyone who tries to leave or enter certain virus hotspots.

Various municipalities in the northern part of the country have been barricaded off from the rest of Italy, with officials suggesting anyone defying the restrictions could face up to three months in jail and a fine.

The mayor of Milan has closed all universities and schools for the next week, despite the fact the city is not officially in lockdown.

Venice is taking extensive measures to lockdown the tourist city in a bid to stop the spread of the Coronavirus, including cancelling its famous carnival visited by 200,000 people.

An emergency meeting was held last night and another is to take place today to decide what to do about continued access to the city, given its “extraordinary” travel arrangements.

Museums and schools have been immediately closed and a plan is to swing into action to disinfect gondolas and other public transport.

A statement issued by the council said: “A meeting was held with all the mayors of the Metropolitan City of Venice, the director Giuseppe Dal Ben and the managers of the investee companies Actv / Avm, Ames and Veritas.

“We work in close synergy with the Prefecture, the Veneto Region, the National Department of Civil Protection and the Government to take coordinated measures with the order just issued by the Minister of Health and the President of the Region and with the Prime Minister’s Decree released today.

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“The Municipality of Venice has made provisions, to implement them immediately, starting with the suspension of the activities of the municipal museums and the Muve Foundation, the Teatro La Fenice, Malibran, Toniolo, Momo, the playrooms and municipal libraries, as well as the suspension of the educational and childcare services, as well as schools of all levels, up to March 1st.

“As regards the sanitisation of public transport, an extraordinary disinfection of all means, both land and water, of the Actv / Avm group had already been arranged on Sunday. On Monday, the Administration will issue a provision that takes into account the peculiarities of the municipal area.

“From midnight onwards, all the Carnival animations foreseen in the official programme and all the events of the “Citta in Festa” calendar until the end of next week will also be cancelled.”

The FCO has issued updated travel advice on its websites for Britons, offering advice for those who are unsure about their safety when travelling.

A statement on its website reads: “There is an ongoing outbreak of coronavirus in China and elsewhere, including Italy.

“The government of Italy has introduced extraordinary measures that allow regions to implement civil protection measures in response to Coronavirus.

“This includes the isolation of 10 small towns in Lombardy and 1 in Veneto.

“The regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Piemonte and Emilia Romagna have implemented measures including the suspension of public or private events, the suspension of schools and higher education and the suspension on the opening of museums and cultural institutions for seven days.

“If you are already in the regions affected you should follow the instructions of local authorities.”


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A flight headed to Italy reportedly remained on the ground at Heathrow earlier this morning after panic erupted throughout the cabin.

The aircraft, destined for Milan, was delayed after some passengers decided they no longer wanted to travel, NBC Foreign Correspondent Molly Hunter.

She tweeted: “At #Heathrow, our BA #Milan flight is delayed – the captain just announced there are passengers (I count 3) on board who don’t want to travel due to #coronavirus. Already pushed back… now re-attaching.” contacted Heathrow airport for comment on the situation but has not yet received a response.

However, even despite the developing situation in Europe, the World Health Organisation says that travellers should not avoid plans, and have offered insight into methods of protection.

Appearing on a Coronavirus update video, Dr Carmen Dolea, Head, IHR Secretariat at the World Health Organisation said: “If you have to travel you have to go to the airport.”

They recommend washing hands frequently with soap and water and carrying an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

Speaking to, Dr Richard Dawood, a Travel Medicine Specialist from Fleet Street Clinic, also urged travellers not to cancel holiday plans and instead says exercising good hygiene practices.

Dr Dawood adds that travellers should maintain a “social distance of at least 1 metre where possible.”

He added: “Do make sure you have good insurance cover that could kick in at short notice if government advice changes. Keep a careful watch on the FCO, PHE and TravelHealthPro websites for the latest information on risks and restrictions.”

At the time of writing, there are currently 79,565 confirmed cases globally, with the death rate surpassing 2,600.

Additional reporting by Rita Sobot 

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