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We're traveling to Roma this Monday and we're kinda scared with what is happening in the North of Italy with the coronavirus.

A lot of news on the internet say that it's not advised but I feel like they're making a big deal of it and there's nothing to worry

Should we stay or can we travel there safely?

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    I don't think anyone here can give a useful advise. It's best to follow the instructions of the authorities. – Bernhard Feb 28 at 11:47
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    Do you care only about the risk to yourself (which may be small) or does the risk of introducing the virus to your home community also matter to you? Keep in mind that if there's a 1% chance of you catching it, that's pretty small for you, but if 1000 people from your country take that risk, then it's inevitable that your country will become infected. – Kat Feb 29 at 16:38
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    As of March 1, 2020 (my time), I will strongly recommend refraining from any travel at all. Keep in mind the virus is spreading rapidly globally, and the current numbers are not indicative of the # of infected people at all (due to low testing rates, and the large number of infected persons with no or very mild syndromes). Really, you never know where's safe and where's not. Try to stay home and be safe. – xuq01 Feb 29 at 20:18
  • As someone with a medical background (and been asked by multiple doctors if I was one) I will say that this is a difficult question to ask. This borders on medical advice and you shouldn't ever take that from someone esp online. Including me (I myself will never offer any however except for things like seek medical help). That being said there are so many variables from person to person to really know. Is it really worth the risk? I've seen too much death and near-deaths over the years but I suspect you already know the answer you just hope for better news. – Pryftan Mar 1 at 21:55
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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the US government's public health agency, currently gives the following advice about travel to Italy:

Warning - Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel—Widespread Community Transmission

CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Italy. There is limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas. ... If you must travel:

  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at 60%–95% alcohol. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.
    • It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
    • Supplies of hand sanitizer, tissues, and other hygiene products may be limited, so consider bringing them with you.
  • Pay attention to your health during travel and for 14 days after you leave.

It is probably advisable to postpone travel to Italy at this time.

Note that this advice is comparable to the "Level 3" advice for China and South Korea. For those countries, the CDC recommends that everyone avoid all nonessential travel.

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    The advice isn't to postpone travel if you're "especially vulnerable to infection". It is to do so if you are likely to be especially vulnerable to severe Covid-19. From what we know so far, the disease is more likely to severe (and more likely to be fatal) in older adults. – mattdm Feb 28 at 13:36
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    @mattdm That is true (about the severity), but the answer sidesteps about getting infected (and thus possibly spreading). This is a reason why many European countries are considering cancelling major events greater than 1000 peaple. They want to prevent the spreading. This (accepted) answer does not take that aspect into consideration. – Mark Johnson Feb 28 at 13:52
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    Of course, given that Italy only shows up on the global radar because they're doing a lot of testing, it is highly likely that all Western countries have similar infection rates - they just don't enough patients to know. – JonathanReez Feb 29 at 2:55
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    @mattdm the advice isn't about individual vulnerability, but spreading the virus. It is aimed at everybody, not those particularly at risk. It says avoid all nonessential travel to Italy. – Weather Vane Feb 29 at 10:16
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    Might make sense to not just include the US advice, but include a couple more, e.g. the UK only recommends against travel to specific areas: assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5e566fead3bf7f0700fef983/… – David Mulder Feb 29 at 22:58
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I'm currently in Rome, where you are considering travelling. The situation here is normal, given there are very few reported confirmed cases (6 so far, including 3 that have been declared 'recovered').

In general, people are more cautious with being near each other but mostly people are going about their business as usual. For example, if you go to a supermarket you will see, especially in larger chains, staff generally wearing gloves to handle items. This is probably mandated from management, and it is in response to people concerned about the possible spread of the virus. You also see the occasional customer wearing gloves when shopping.

Please bear in mind that Rome is relatively far from the northern part of Italy, where currently an outbreak has been declared and a number of towns have been quarantined.

Having said all of the above, nobody can give you 100% assurance that anywhere is safe right now. Just look at cases recently reported in both the UK and the US. Such cases do not seem to have any clear links to people who came from any of the affected areas.

You should perform your own risk assessment. Are you travelling with people who are in a category deemed to be vulnerable (e.g. people with chronic/established health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc. / elderly people) ? If so, even though the risk of infection is low in Rome, the impact of that risk could be very high and it should not be underestimated.

Also, this is a rapidly evolving situation. If you are travelling for leisure and, during your stay, the situation in central Italy changes, you may end up being stuck here for longer than you planned, as authorities and/or airlines update their operational guidance. Check what happened to the passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise, or international guests in Tenerife, who are currently under quarantine for 14 days at least. In that case, if you can't afford to be away from your base location for longer than you had intended you should consider what the impact of a forced prolonged stay is for you and your travel companions.

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    Are you travelling with people who are in a category deemed to be vulnerable That's the wrong question to ask. The right question is: do I want to risk bringing the virus back home with me, potentially spreading to others at home and along the way it, potentially killing someone, or at least inconveniencing people and spreading the region's / world's limited health-care resources thinner preventing an outbreak? Now is not the time to be selfishly short-sighted, IMO. – Peter Cordes Mar 1 at 1:17
  • The comment ^ bring things in focus. All measure taken are aimed to limit the disease to spread. From such a point of view the situation here is both normal (except of clusters areas) and exceptional. Consider the response of the population which wasn't balanced. This is not because Italy is my country. I just considered that a big spread will indeed block the medical care system of a country and beyond. All measures taken are to avoid that. Not because zombies are around. On personal bases I would travel to Rome. But I find that recommendation against it are reasonable. At the end it is what – Alchimista Mar 4 at 10:26
  • .... we all pretended from China.... – Alchimista Mar 4 at 10:27
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    If you are travelling for leisure and, during your stay, the situation in central Italy changes, you may end up being stuck here for longer than you planned, as authorities and/or airlines update their operational guidance: for these reasons I decided not to go, I couldn't risk to stay more than a few days ... – Nevi Mar 9 at 16:20
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As said, the best you can do is to take into account:

  • Official guidelines and expert advice
  • Possible travel restrictions
  • The medical situation if you need treatment there or at home

The decision is then down to your personal risk tolerance. Nobody can do that for you. It may also depend on factors as how important the travel is for you.

Official Advisories (as of 02/29/2020)

  • The CDC and US state department advise against all nonessential Travel
  • On the other hands, the British Foreign Office only advises against travel to the regions that are actually affected. Same for the German RKI (their version of the CDC) and government
  • The EDC (European Center for Disease Control) advises against travel to "areas with community transmission", but currently considers the outbreak in Italy "localized"
  • The WHO doesn't seem to give specific advice at travellers, other than to take "precautions"

All official advice on precautions boils down to: Wash your hands; and avoid coughing/sneezing on other people.

Also, note that your travel insurance will usually pay up when your home government advises against travel.

(Future) Travel restrictions

It is impossible to say how, or how fast, the situation will change.

The WHO advises, and countries have implemented, entry and exit checks for at-risk countries. There is currently not general travel restrictions for Italy; but that could change if the situation changes. Some workplaces also have policies for people returning from at-risk areas.

If there are checks, you could even get stuck when having "mundane" respiratory illnesses and/or fever - an it is flu season, regardless of COVID-19

Medical care

For any travel you should check your medical insurance and make sure you know how to access medical care. All western European countries have a good public health systems, and high-quality care is generally available. While the EDC sees a "moderate" risk for the health system, it is unlikely all Italy will get swamped next week.

Other factors

  • The EDC currently considers the overall risk "moderate". While new cases are expected to show up, there are currently still very few.
  • 80% the cases are mild, 20% severe, one of 4 or 5 of which is critical.
  • The fatality rate isn't exactly known (estimates between 0.5% and 3%), but is certainly much higher than the normal, seasonal flu (0.1%).
  • From the current statistics, elderly people seem most at risk (of dying when they have it, not contracting it), and men more than women. Still, there are cases were healthy, mid-aged people have died from the disease.
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    Still, there are cases were healthy, mid-aged people have died from the disease. - Yes, for most people, spreading the disease is a bigger problem than just catching it yourself. The authorities are having a hard time containing / preventing outbreaks. If you catch it, the big risk is starting an outbreak (and using up health-care / containment resources that could have gone elsewhere if you had stayed home), Or even passing it on to directly or indirectly to someone else who dies. There's a risk of having that on your conscience if staying home was a viable option. – Peter Cordes Mar 1 at 1:24
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    Of course you can take this into account. However, I find the notion to assume people are somehow personally responsible for "spreading" a dangerous one, to put it mildly. There are already too many stories of abuse directed at people with the disease from that angle. – averell Mar 1 at 10:34
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    That's a fair point; I hadn't heard about abuse or thought of it from that angle, thanks. I just wanted to clarify that the "personal risk tolerance" you mention in your answer shouldn't be limited to just the risk to your own health, but also the risk of making a global problem worse. And to help explain why some authorities "advise against all nonessential Travel" for everyone, not just the elderly. – Peter Cordes Mar 1 at 16:44
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    Also, if you travel from the USA and return to the USA, and you get ordered by the CDC to go to a hospital for quarantaine you might be billed for the costs, or the transport to it, or by the independant specialists used and whoever else may be involved. theintercept.com/2020/02/28/… Even though the hospital waived the costs, the radiologists and ambulance service didn't. – Tschallacka Mar 2 at 14:29
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UPDATE: 2020-03-09 23:00

New measures have been announced in Italy effectively placing the whole country under quarantine.

Travel within Italy will be greatly restricted.

Temporary visitors will be allowed to leave.

Visitors entries will probably not be allowed

  • even if allowed in, travel around Italy will be restricted

Coronavirus: Italy extends strict quarantine measures nationwide - BBC News 2020-03-09 23:00

The government has said only those with a valid work or family reason that cannot be postponed will be permitted to travel.

Passengers departing on flights, except temporary visitors, will have to justify themselves, as will all those arriving by plane.

There are controls at train stations to check temperatures.

Cruise ships are forbidden to dock at various ports.


I don't think anyone here can give a useful advise. It's best to follow the instructions of the authorities. – @Bernhard

This statement is correct, since this is a matter that each person must decide for themselves, based on available information.

Some of that information is:

  • 2 Italian regions (Lombardy and Veneto) are affected
    • cause is at present unknown
  • casual travelers from or through northern Italy have carried the virus to neighboring countries
    • Austria, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland
  • in Germany it was further spread during a visits to a Carnival celebrations
    • where it is known that an affected person attended that had just come back from Italy
  • many newly infected persons are normally healthy persons
  • public events in Switzerland (of more that 1000 peaple) and Germany (where the International Travel Fair (ITB) in Berlin, due to start on the 4th of March, has just been cancelled) should not take place

Based on this, one could assume that it will also spread to other regions of Italy.


These would be the facts that I would take into consideration if I had to make the decision to visit a good friend in the Toscana region at the present time.


Sources:

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Statistically the risk is believed to be small based on what is known.

There are unknown and unknowable factors which may make the risk far higher than is presently apparent but the chances of this are small. For example

  • People with no symptoms or detectable infection are subsequently proving infected days after appearing clear.

  • People in rare (so far) cases are becoming infected with no known source, suggesting transmission modes not so far well understood.

Sensible precautions against the many well known, commonly experienced and wide spread dangers will improve your chances of staying alive far more than strongly avoiding any country where COVID-19 is present.

  • The risk of a young to not-too-old tourist dying from COVID-19 if they follow WHO guidelines on sensible behaviour is so far FAR smaller than the risk of dying in a vehicle-pedestrian accident while undertaking normal tourist activities. Looking both ways several times more than usual when crossing Italian roads - especially in Rome ! :-) - will much reduce your risk of dying on holiday than will avoiding COVID-19.

  • At present the risk of dying from 'flu' is vastly greater than from COVID-19* if you are not innoculated against 'flu.

*CDC estimates that 'flu kills 300 - 650 thousand people annually worldwide

An important factor to consider when deciding whether to enter to an area of known increased COVID-19 risk, no matter how small the real risk may be, is its potential effects on your subsequent ability to travel elsewhere or even perhaps the ability to leave the area. You may be prevented from entering other countries, and / or be required to undergo some version of quarantine or isolation.

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    Keep in mind that the risk involved isn't just catching it yourself, but of spreading it to other people (who may be affected worse), or even starting an outbreak. This is why disease-control authorities want everyone to limit their travel while this new threat is still spreading and not under control. – Peter Cordes Mar 1 at 16:49
  • @PeterCordes That makes sense in the very early days, but we are far beyond that point now. The disease will spread; it's a matter of when rather than if. However there is some argument to be made that delaying the spread is beneficial as it gives health care institutions more time to prepare. – JBentley Mar 2 at 13:37
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Is it safe? Probably

But should you reconsider your trip?

As mentioned in other answers the CDC has issues a Level 3 Warning. Avoid Nonessential Travel.

Here are a couple of things to consider

  • Due to incubation period there is a lag time, so the cases in the Lazio region are probably under reported at the present time.
  • You will be travelling through high risk areas. Airports / tourist hotspots etc. Because of this you will experience evelated risk.
  • If the situation develops in Italy. You will be out out your comfort zone. You will be totally reliant on Italian authorities.
  • If you catch the virus and bring it home. The risk to yourself may be low but vulnerable members of your community e.g grandparents are exposed to a much greater risk.

If you do decide to go ahead. You may have to wear masks in public and be filled with worry. With the possibility of quarantine and isolation when you come home. This might have an impact on your work. My advice is to cancel.

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No, I think that by now, we can definitely say it isn't. Cancel your trip, just as I did. I know it is hard, I myself will lose at least 1,050 € (one-thousand and fifty euros), but do it anyway, this is safe.

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    As this answer was being given, new measures were announced in Italy effectively placing the whole country under quarantine. Travel within Italy will be greatly restricted. Temporary visitors will be allowed to leave, visitors entries will probably not be allowed. – Mark Johnson Mar 9 at 22:13
  • Thanks for the addition, this is exactly what I meant: Whoe Italy will be effectifely under quarantine. – MathIsFun Mar 10 at 7:39

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