As I'm sure you have heard about it from your local media, at the end of January, the World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency of international concern about the novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, which started spreading in the Hubei province of China around December, 2019. Let me show you the situation in Italy.
The Coronavirus situation in Italy - updated to Feb 28th
This applies to Italy, too. In a little under a month since the WHO determination, roughly 650 people have tested positive to Coronavirus on a population of 60 million people. 45 people recovered and 17 people have died, all locals and, unfortunately, elderly people. They were already hospitalized at the time or being treated for other serious conditions, so it is not a given that they were killed by the Coronavirus: on the contrary, the COVID-19 had a free reign over them because of their weaker immune systems.
What's important to know is that only a small area in Northern Italy has been affected by an outbreak, with less than a dozen small towns involved south of Milan. These towns are on lockdown.
No one goes in or out, no trains call at their stations to minimize the risks of the outbreak expanding.
No major cities have been hit by any Coronavirus epidemic, and the occasional cases of COVID-19 consist of tourists who brought the illness with them from their hometowns or home countries (see the Chinese couple in Rome, who infected no-one and has made a full recovery, or the husband and wife from Northern Italy in Palermo, who have been immediately quarantined.
Coronavirus in Italy: Taking the right precautions
Given the health and safety risks posed by this virus, I kindly ask all the travellers to consult their local government's travel directions and health recommendations related to the outbreak.
For US citizens, particularly, the CDC has has issued a Level 2 Alert (here), which means “Practice Enhanced Precautions“: this includes
- washing your hands often
- avoiding contact with sick people
- avoiding touching your face, eyes and mouth with unwashed hands
The complete list of recommendations is at the source. It is suggested that elderly tourists avoid Northern Italy if they have chronic health issues.
In the event you're traveling from the UK, the Department of Health and Social Care has issued this document (here)