The Italian Government’s weekend decision to implement a sweeping coronavirus quarantine affecting one-quarter of the country’s population initially created confusion among foreign travellers.
The Guardian newspaper reported that the UK Foreign Office had “faced a backlash on Sunday over its lack of clear advice for British people with holidays booked in northern Italy and those currently in quarantine”.
Hours after the decree was approved to lock down the Lombardy region, said The Guardian, the department was still advising that it was safe to travel anywhere in Italy except for 11 towns where the outbreak originated.
Eventually, the advice was updated later on Sunday to warn against “all but essential” travel to the Lombardy region (including the cities of Milan, Bergamo and Como) and the provinces of Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia and Rimini (all in Emilia Romagna); Pesaro e Urbino (in Marche); Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano-Cusio-Ossola and Vercelli (Piemonte); and Padova, Treviso and Venice (Veneto).
The advice added: “British nationals remain able to depart Italy without restriction. Residents of other parts of Italy are permitted to leave the isolation areas to return home. Otherwise entry into and exit from these areas is forbidden without official permission on the grounds of strict necessity; the authorities have confirmed to us that this will be granted for reasons such as medical need or work requirements.
“Airports remain open throughout Italy, including in the isolation areas. Flights are operating to and from the UK. However, airline schedules are subject to change and some flights are being cancelled. Travellers are advised to check flight details with airlines.
“Additional restrictions include the closure of museums, cultural institutions and the suspension of all public gatherings, social events including pubs, nightclubs and games halls. Religious ceremonies and funerals are suspended. Ski facilities in the affected mountain areas are closed. Restaurants and bars remain open from 06.00 to 18.00.
“Across the whole of Italy, museums and cultural institutions are closed and all sporting fixtures must be played behind closed doors. Childcare facilities, schools and universities are closed until 15 March. Public and social gatherings should be avoided with cinemas, pubs and clubs closed. Restaurants and bars remain open with reduced seating.”
Meanwhile, Malpensa Airport featured a banner on its official website advising, “In relation to the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 emergency, passengers are informed that the activities of Linate and Malpensa airports are continuing regularly.”
The lock-down is due to last until 3 April, and currently affects 16 million people.
Useful Information and Contacts
Foreign travel advice: UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)
People returning from Italy: UK Department of Health and Social Care
Information about coronavirus, including advice on preparing for foreign travel and helping reduce the spread of the virus: TravelHealthPro
Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Italian)
Italian Ministry of Health (in Italian)