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Coronavirus: FCO issues major warning for Italy as travel ban issued – how safe is Italy?

Coronavirus cases in Italy have seen a marked jump, as a total of 7,375 people are reported to have the virus. There have been 366 deaths from the virus in total. Italy introduced radical measures at the weekend in an attempt to contain coronavirus.

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Fourteen provinces and up to 16 million people to Lombardy need special permission to travel under new quarantine rules which are in place until 3 April.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has now updated its travel advice to Britons.

The FCO said: “The FCO now advise against all but essential travel to the following areas in northern Italy, due to an ongoing outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19) and various control and isolation measures imposed by the Italian authorities on 8 March.

“[These include] Lombardy region (which includes the cities of Milan, Bergamo, Como) and the provinces of Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia and Rimini (all in Emilia Romagna); Pesaro e Urbino (in Marche); Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano-Cusio-Ossola and Vercelli (all in Piemonte); Padova. Treviso and Venice (in Veneto).

“British nationals remain able to depart Italy without restriction. Residents of other parts of Italy are permitted to leave the isolation areas to return home.

“Otherwise entry into and exit from these areas is forbidden without official permission on the grounds of strict necessity; the authorities have confirmed to us that this will be granted for reasons such as medical need or work requirements.

“Travellers should check flight details with airlines. Additional restrictions include the closure of museums, cultural institutions and the suspension of all public gatherings, social events including pubs, nightclubs and games halls. Religious ceremonies and funerals are suspended.

“Ski facilities in the affected mountain areas are closed. Restaurants and bars remain open from 06.00 to 18.00.”

The FCO added: “Across the whole of Italy, museums and cultural institutions are closed and all sporting fixtures must be played behind closed doors.

“Childcare facilities, schools and universities are closed until 15 March. Public and social gatherings should be avoided with cinemas, pubs and clubs closed. Restaurants and bars remain open with reduced seating.”

Flights have also been affected by the travel bans.

Italy’s national carrier Alitalia announced it would suspend all operations from Milan Malpensa Airport from today and Milan Linate Airport would only serve domestic routes. International flights would continue to and from Rome.

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British Airways has cancelled 36 flights today to and from northern Italy, mainly to Milan and Venice.

A BA spokeswoman told Express.co.uk: “Following the change to the UK Government travel advice for Northern Italy, we are reviewing our schedule, and have contacted all customers who are due to travel today.

“We are also offering customers booked to fly before April 2, the option to change their booking up to another date up to the end of May, or to fly via Zurich or Geneva instead.”

easyJet is also expected to reduce flights to northern Italy.

The budget airline has said it would review its flying programme to the airports in the area, Milan Malpensa, Milan Linate, Venice and Verona until 3 April, with cancellations expected, reported Reuters.

“We will provide a further update on our schedule in due course,” easyJet said in an emailed statement on Monday.

easyJet has said their fares and fees are non-refundable. Their website currently states: “We are currently experiencing extremely high call volumes and appreciate the inconvenience it causes. To reduce waiting times please contact us within 48 hours of your departure date.

“As airports are open our generic terms and conditions remain the same which means that our fares and fees are non-refundable. If you cancel, miss, or do not take your flight, unfortunately, we will be unable to provide you with a refund.”

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Travel

Coronavirus spread: How to avoid coronavirus on flights

The city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus originated, is a transport hub known as the ‘thoroughfare of China’. With millions of people coming and going via the city, authorities had little choice but to lock the city down.

How to avoid coronavirus on flights

Medical experts have so far recommended frequent hand-washing as the most effective way of preventing the spread of the virus.

The wearing of face masks has also been advised, but with billions of people in China and the necessity to swap masks up to four times a day, there is a high demand for the protective gear.

That increased demand could soon lead to a shortage of face masks but even so, their efficiency has been debated.

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David Powell is a physician and medical adviser to the International Air Transport Association.

He told Bloomberg that COVID-19 can’t survive for long on seats and armrests.

The greater risk of infection comes from physical contact between persons.

He adds that masks and gloves help spread bugs rather than stopping them.

Dr Powell said: “Viruses and other microbes like to live on living surfaces like us.

“Just shaking hands with somebody will be a greater risk by far than some dry surface that has no biological material on it.

“The survival of viruses on surfaces isn’t great, so it’s believed that normal cleaning, and then the extra cleaning in the event that someone was discovered to be contagious, is the appropriate procedure.”

He added: “The hands are the way that these viruses most efficiently spread.

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“Top of the list is frequent hand washing, hand sanitizing, or both.

“Avoid touching your face. If you cough or sneeze, it’s important to cover your face with a sleeve.

“Better yet, a tissue to be disposed of carefully, and then sanitizing the hands afterward.

“Washing your hands and drying them is the best procedure. When that’s not easy to do, alcohol-based sanitizer is a good second-best.”

The medical adviser warns that wearing masks and gloves could help spread coronavirus on a flight more efficiently than anything else.

Dr Powell argues that gloves and masks can in fact an ideal environment for microbes to thrive.

He said: “There’s very limited evidence of benefit, if any, in a casual situation.

“Masks are useful for those who are unwell to protect other people from them.

“But wearing a mask all the time will be ineffective. It will allow viruses to be transmitted around it, through it and worse still, if it becomes moist it will encourage the growth of viruses and bacteria.

“Gloves are probably even worse, because people put on gloves and then touch everything they would have touched with their hands.

“So it just becomes another way of transferring micro-organisms.

“And inside the gloves, your hands get hot and sweaty, which is a really good environment for microbes to grow.”

So how likely is it for passengers to be infected while travelling on an aircraft?

According to Dr Powell the risk is low because of the air inside the plane.

He said: “The risk of catching a serious viral infection on an aircraft is low.

“The air supply to a modern airliner is very different from a movie theater or an office building.

“The air is a combination of fresh air and recirculated air, about half each.

“The recirculated air goes through filters of the exact same type that we use in surgical operating theatres.

“That supplied air is guaranteed to be 99.97 per cent or better free of viruses and other particles.

“So the risk, if there is one, does not come from the supplied air. It comes from other people.”

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The coronavirus spreads quicker through human to human contact.

The World Health Organisation defines contact with an infected person as being seated within two rows of one another on a plane.

But people don’t just sit during flights, particularly ones lasting longer than a few hours.

They visit the bathroom, stretch their legs, and grab items from the overhead bins.

A study by a group of public health researchers found that passengers in window seats came into less contact than those sat in the middle or aisle seats.

Howard Weiss, a professor of biology and mathematics at Penn State University, lead the FlyHealthy Research Team study.

He told National Geographic: “If you’re seated in an aisle seat, certainly there will be quite a few people moving past you, but they’ll be moving quickly.

“In aggregate, what we show is there’s quite a low probability of transmission to any particular passenger.”

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Travel

Flights: Two women caught in ‘dirty’ position – travellers call for public shaming

Travelling by plane can often mean long periods of time in a cramped space, which means passengers go to all kinds of lengths to find a comfortable position. However, two women on a flight shocked their fellow fliers when they were caught in a very bizarre situation.

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The two women caused such a stir that another passenger on board pulled out their mobile phone and snapped a picture of the shocking moment.

The image has since been shared to Instagram account @PassengerShaming where it has amassed 534 comments and 8,811 likes.

In the image, the economy cabin of a commercial aeroplane can be seen, with rows of seats stretching back along the wall of the place.

It seems the two women seated in the middle of these rows were desperate to stretch out their legs mid-flight.

Two pairs of legs can be seen stretched out into the air.

To make matters worse though, and causing much more of a stir in the comments, are two sets of feet resting atop the seat in front.

Viewers were shocked to find that both women had also chosen to strip their feet of their socks, baring their naked toes to the entire cabin.

“Definitely airlines have to apply a dress code and what is not allowed rules while in a flight,” said a viewer, unimpressed by the display of feet.

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“It’s incredible gross how people can be.”

The two culprits, meanwhile, remain anonymous and they slump down, presumably relaxed, in their seats.

Enraged commenters have called for the passengers to be named and shamed.

An irate commenter wrote: “Maybe if their faces start getting shown, this behaviour will cease.”

Another described the two women as “dirty people” ad another simple wrote: “Nasty.”

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Others questioned how beneficial it is to sit in such a position.

“How is this even comfortable?! I don’t understand ha,” said one Instagram user.

Some blamed it on societies new found obsession with wellness and exercise.

The commenter said: “Damn you Yoga! Nobody was doing this when I was a kid.”

However, in a change of heart, they added: “Wish I was as flexible as you.”

Others were equally as amazed at the duos flexibility and how they managed to pull such a manoeuvre at all.

A surprised onlooker said: “Those seats are so tiny and tight. I cannot figure out how they even manage to do this.”

Others commended the move as a good idea, saying: “Getting some great ideas for my upcoming international flight.

Yet, with more people travelling more frequently these days, the desire to find ways to enjoy the long-haul journeys is on the rise.

Perhaps this duo are the masterminds behind an unlikely method.

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