US Warns Americans to Not Travel to Certain Regions in Italy, South Korea Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

February 29, 2020 Updated: February 29, 2020
FONT BFONT SText size

The United States is urging Americans to not travel to certain regions in Italy and South Korea due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Vice President Mike Pence raised the travel advisory for Lombardy and Veneto in Italy to “Level 4: do not travel”—the highest level—during a press conference on Saturday. This comes after the European country confirmed 21 deaths and almost 900 cases of the virus.

Pence also updated the travel advisory for Daegu, South Korea to level 4 “due to the level of community transmission of the virus and imposition of local quarantine procedures.” He also expanded the travel restrictions for Iran due to the virus.

These regions in Italy and South Korea have been greatly affected by the outbreak of the virus, Pence said.

A level 4 advisory means that there is a “greater likelihood of life-threatening risks,” according to the state department.

“During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.”

The updated travel restrictions come after Washington state health officials confirmed that one person had died from the virus—the first death from the virus in the United States.

The department updated its travel advisory for Italy to level 3 on Friday, urging Americans to avoid nonessential travel to the country due to the virus.

It stated that most cases in Italy have been associated with travel to or from mainland China or close contact with a travel-related case but added that “sustained community spread has been reported in Italy.”

“Sustained community spread” means that people who have contracted the virus might not know how or where they became infected and that the spread is ongoing, according to the department.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also raised its warning level for Italy to level 3 on Friday, urging travelers to “avoid all nonessential travel” to the European country. The agency added that there is limited access to adequate medicare in areas that have been affected by the virus. China, South Korea, and Iran have also been issued a level 3 advisory.

Dozens of towns in Italy have effectively gone under lockdown, with schools, businesses, and restaurants closed and sporting events canceled following deaths due to the virus. Venice Carnival, that is usually attended by thousands of revelers, has also been canceled due to rapidly rising numbers of infections in the country.

The head of Italy’s hotel federation said that Friday’s travel advisory update is the “final blow” to the nation’s tourism industry.

“We had already registered a slowdown of Americans coming to Italy in recent days,” Federalberghi President Bernabo Bocca said in a statement. “Now the final blow has arrived.”

More than 5.6 million Americans visit Italy every year, the second-largest national group behind Germans, according to the most recent statistics. They represent 9 percent of foreign tourists in Italy and are among the biggest spenders at an average of 140 euros a day for a collective total of 5 billion euros a year, the hotel federation Federalberghi said.

The CDC has warned Americans to prepare for an outbreak of coronavirus in the United States.

Washington state, Oregon, and California officials confirmed in total four new cases on Friday. Officials do not know where or how three of the patients became infected, making them “possible” instances of community spread, according to the CDC.

Zachary Stieber, Ivan Pentchoukov, and The Associated Press contributed to the report.

The article was updated with new travel advisories for Italy, South Korea, and Iran on Feb. 29.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated the incorrect travel advisories for Italy and South Korea. The level 4 advisory for Italy and South Korea only applies to certain regions in those countries. The Epoch Times regrets this error.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan