Italy and the Coronavirus

March 10, 2020  |  By Peg Kern
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Italy and the Coronavirus

As news arrived that all of Italy is now under lockdown we wanted to provide an additional update to our previous post (What to Do if You Are Worried about Travel and the Coronavirus).

What we know: the lockdown that was in place in northern Italy has been extended to all of Italy until April 3, 2020.

What does “lockdown” mean? There are travel restrictions in place within the country and a ban on public gatherings. Residents are advised to stay home. They are not confined to their homes, they are allowed to go out but are encouraged to avoid being in groups and to maintain 1 meter distance between themselves and others. All schools and universities are closed, and sporting and social events are canceled. Only residents with a valid work or family reason are allowed to travel. (1)

How long will the lockdown in Italy last? As above, the lockdown is scheduled to end April 3, 2020.

Why is Italy taking such drastic measures? Italy has been the hardest hit country in Europe by the disease, and the government is taking extreme steps in order to halt the spread. Basically, strike hard in an effort to end it sooner.

Does this mean I shouldn’t go to Italy? It means you should not go to Italy until at least after April 3.

What if I have a trip to Italy planned? All of our travelers scheduled to travel to Italy in March or April have been contacted and offered to have their trips postponed to later in the year at no penalty. Some of our travelers to Italy for May have also rescheduled to later in the year. We have postponed payment due dates for travelers to Italy to 30 days prior to the trip start date in order to give our travelers more time to make an informed choice about whether to reschedule their trip. For travelers booked for June and beyond there is no action needed at this time, as they are outside the payment due window and have time to wait for events to unfold.

What about the rest of Europe? Currently none of our travelers to elsewhere in Europe have been affected. Although cases of COVID-19 have been reported now in every European country, travel is progressing in all of our other European destinations. Some travelers for spring to countries besides Italy have postponed their trips to later in the year, and we have been able to accommodate them without difficulty. Clients who are nervous about travel to Europe in May or beyond should contact us. In most cases we are able to take the same measures as for our Italy travelers, namely postponing final payment due dates and rescheduling trips as requested.

Can I cancel and get reimbursed? For the most part, no. However, we have fortunately been able to reschedule all of our clients who have requested it. We also have a responsibility to our travel suppliers, and many services for our travelers are prepaid well in advance.

Can I file a travel insurance claim? That depends on the specifics of your travel protection policy and on the reason for your cancelation. Usually you will only be covered for cancelation protection if you yourself (or your traveling companion) are sick or quarantined. You can see the update on Coronavirus coverage from our preferred Travel Insurance partner, Travelex, here: Coronavirus Alert.

Is it safe to travel anywhere now? That depends on your health status. Per the World Health Organization:

It is prudent for travellers who are sick to delay or avoid travel to affected areas, in particular for elderly travellers and people with chronic diseases or underlying health conditions.
General recommendations for personal hygiene, cough etiquette and keeping a distance of at least one metre from persons showing symptoms remain particularly important for all travellers. (2)

The recommended measures include proper hand washing, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing, and avoiding touching your face.

What does this mean? Travelers in good health can still travel, and there are plenty of areas that are not considered “affected areas.” In fact, to date the only countries that have a level 3 travel advisory by the CDC for Coronavirus are: China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy. Japan is at a level 2 (practice increased precautions). (3)

Both the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have stated that travel bans to affected areas or denial of entry to arriving passengers from affected areas is not an effective way to prevent importation of cases. (2, 3)

If you have other concerns, such as worries about hygiene while flying, quarantines, etc., please see our previous post on What to Do if You Are Worried about Travel and the Coronavirus.

What next? The whole world is waiting to see how events will unfold. Anyone scheduled to take a trip with us in the next 60 days should reach out to discuss their options if they are nervous. We and our partners will try to be as flexible as possible as we navigate these uncertain times.

This is undoubtedly a serious crisis: although the cases are concentrated in a predominantly a small part of the world (more than 102,000 of the 109,577 confirmed cases are in China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran [4]), how it will spread remains a question, and the continuing effect on the world economy remains to be seen. We are, however, happy to report that none of our travelers or partners have become ill, and our commitment to the health of all remains our top priority.

Current reports from China and South Korea indicate a drop in the spread of the disease (5), and we believe that this will occur also in Italy due to the measures they have taken. How soon the crisis passes is of course what everyone wants to know – but we join the rest of the world in hoping it will be soon.

By Peg Kern

1. “Coronavirus: Italy extends emergency measures nationwide.” BBC News. March 10, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-51810673
2. “Updated WHO recommendations for international travel in relation to COVID-19 outbreak.” World Health Organization. February 26, 2020. https://www.who.int/news-room/articles-detail/updated-who-recommendations-for-international-traffic-in-relation-to-covid-19-outbreak/
3. “Travel Health Notices.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention. March 9, 2020. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices
4. “Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation report – 49.” World Health Organization March 9, 2020. https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200309-sitrep-49-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=70dabe61_4
5. “As Europe Steps Up Coronavirus Fight, Asia’s Efforts Bear Fruit.” The Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2020. https://www.wsj.com/articles/new-coronavirus-spread-slows-in-worst-hit-asian-countries-11583835505

By Peg Kern
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