Can You Visit Italy During the Coronavirus Outbreak? Everything Travelers Need to Know Now
Here's how to stay safe abroad
BREAKING NEWS: On March 9, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that the entire country of Italy will be under lockdown until April 3, as there have now been 10,149 confirmed coronavirus cases and 631 deaths. The government has told all schools, universities, cinemas, theaters, museums, nightclubs, and ski resorts to close effective immediately. Restaurants and bars may stay open, but they have a curfew of 6 p.m. and must keep patrons at least a yard apart. Although religious centers of worship will also remain open, ceremonies and gatherings—including weddings, baptisms, and funerals—are banned for the time being.
The 60 million citizens may travel for work, medical reasons, or emergencies, according to Reuters. Public transportation will still operate, however, anyone who wants to take a train, plane, or car (on major roads between cities) must now submit a form to authorities explaining their reasons for traveling. People could face fines or jail terms if they lie on these documents, according to The New York Times. American Airlines, British Airways, Ryanair, Aer Lingus, EasyJet, Wizz Air, Norwegian, and Lufthansa are suspending all routes to and from Italy.
One of the most pressing topics affecting the globe right now is the outbreak of coronavirus COVID-19, an illness that has sickened tens of thousands around the world and killed more than 4,031 people, mostly in China, the epicenter of the virus. The good news: You have a very small likelihood of contracting COVID-19, and even if you do, it's almost certainly not fatal, unless you have a compromised immune system. (For context, the flu has hospitalized 180,000 Americans and killed 10,000 more this season.) The bad news: The spread of the disease is impacting major travel hubs, such as Italy, where a recent outbreak has resulted in officials quarantining entire towns and canceling annual events.
Which Italian regions and cities are affected?
It's important to note that not all of Italy has been impacted by COVID-19. As of publication, 212 of Italy's 283 confirmed cases are in Lombardy, a northern region whose capital is Milan. Other cases have been reported in Veneto (32), whose capital is Venice, Emilia-Romagna (23), Piedmont (six), Lazio (three), Tuscany (two), Trentino Alto-Adige (one), and Sicily (one). Of the 11 COVID-19 deaths so far, six were in Lombardy, while one was in Venice. Though major cities are still open to travelers, 12 smaller towns in Lombardy are on lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus.
Can you still travel to Italy?
While numerous flights to China have been canceled since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, airlines are currently still flying to Italy, as are all rail and bus services (though there was one incident in which Austria suspended some train service temporarily on February 23 due to two suspect cases, which both turned out negative). Travelers may, however, be screened upon crossing the Italian border in either direction and turned away if they are suspected of being infected. The U.S. Department of State has not issued any travel advisories specific to COVID-19, but the CDC has issued a Level 2 Travel Health Alert for the virus.
Which tourist sites are closed?
The majority of sites across southern Italy are still open to the public, but the government has officially closed numerous civic museums across Milan, Venice, and Turin. Private institutions, including the Fondazione Prada in Milan and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, have also closed, as has Milan's iconic cathedral and opera house Teatro alla Scala, according to The Art Newspaper. Officials expect them to remain closed through at least March 1.
Which events are canceled?
Events, however, have been more widely impacted. Venice's Carnival, an annual celebration that draws thousands of visitors, has officially been canceled, while Milan Fashion Week found many of its chairs to be empty (some designers, like Giorgio Armani and Laura Biagiotti, chose to stream their shows online). Italy's premier soccer league, Serie A, has also canceled more than four matches in Lombardy and Veneto, as local authorities have restricted public gatherings in wake of the pandemic.
And for more health tips, make sure you know these 30 Smart Ways to Avoid Getting Sick When You Travel.