As Italy sees a surge in coronavirus infections and other European countries introduce measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, the US State Department and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have stepped up their advice for travelers.
Italy is currently dealing with the largest outbreak of the coronavirus outside Asia. As of Tuesday, 11 people have died and the number of people testing positive for the infection has surged to more than 300. As such, the CDC has increased its travel alert to 'level 2', meaning American travelers should "practice enhanced precautions" like avoid travel to the affected regions of Lombardy and Veneto, avoid contact with sick people and wash hands often. The CDC also states that "older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing nonessential travel."
Authorities on Tuesday reported new cases in Spain, Austria, Croatia, Switzerland and France, all believed to be linked to Italy. Checkpoints have been installed in Italy and 12 towns have been put under quarantine, with public gatherings and high-profile events, including Milan Design Week, cancelled or postponed in the surrounding regions.
To contain the coronavirus, the European Parliament has asked people who have travelled to affected regions to stay at home for 14 days. The UK has requested travelers returning from affected areas in Italy, China, South Korea and Iran to "self-isolate" and inform the authorities. While Budapest Airport and Prague's airport announced that they would screen travelers returning from Italy for fevers, according to reports in the New York Times and RTE.
In Spain and Austria, two hotels where cases have been confirmed are under lockdown. In Innsbruck, in the Austrian Alps, people have been banned from entering or leaving the Grand Hotel, except for medical personnel. Likewise, the H10 Costa Adeje Palace on the resort island of Tenerife, is under quarantine.
What does this mean for travellers in Europe?
Air and rail travel are continuing as normal for now. However, travelers are advised to avoid affected areas and to practice enhanced precautions. Delays and disruptions to travel are expected as transport hubs introduce screening measures. The situation is constantly changing so travelers are advised to stay updated with government travel and health advisories.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised travellers already in infected regions to follow the instructions of local authorities, with a warning to "self-isolate" and call NHS 111 if they develop symptoms upon returning home. While the US State Department has said the "US Embassy continues to monitor the health situation in Italy and recommends that individuals follow Italian health official guidance and avoid government-designated affected areas."