Coronavirus Advisory for Italy and Neighbouring Countries

February 25, 2020: Travellers planning trips anywhere to Europe in the near future need to stay tuned  to government and media alerts now that COVID-19 has seriously impacted Italy and begun its spread to neighbouring countries. As of this date, more than 200 Italians have been confirmed positive for the virus and seven have died—the heaviest toll of any country in Europe. Though most of the cases reported to date have been clustered in northern Italy, a late report has just been received of a positive confirmation of coronavirus in Sicily, southernmost Italy.

And according to Germany’s DW (Deutsche Welle) News service, Austria has confirmed its first two cases of the coronavirus—detected in two Italians living in the Tyrol region who were likely infected on a recent trip to Lombardy (encompassing Milan) in northern Italy.

Croatia has also reported its first confirmed case in a young man who returned from a trip to Italy, and the European Parliament has urged any of its employees who have recently travelled to northern Italy to self-isolate for 14 days. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has similarly advised any Britons showing signs of illness after returning from Northern Italy to self-isolate.

As of February 25, 2020, the World Health Organization has not yet labelled COVID-19 a “pandemic” but the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) has increased its risk assessment from the coronavirus from “moderate” to “high.”

Also to this date, none of the countries in the Schengen Area have implemented border crossing controls to abate the spread of the virus, but French and Swiss authorities are considering that possibility. All prospective travellers to the Schengen Area (which encompasses most continental European countries) should be prepared to have passports and other visa documents at hand when approaching any border crossings within Europe. Also have evidence of travel insurance if asked by local authorities.

So far, Travel Canada has maintained an “exercise normal precaution” warning level for travellers to Italy. If it should raise its warning level to “avoid non-essential travel” or “avoid all travel” to either the country as a whole or designated regions within, any travel insurance you will have purchased after that date may have some of its medical benefits that may be connected to coronavirus restricted.

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If you purchased insurance prior to such warnings being issued, and you either cancel your trip or decide to return home early due to concerns about the coronavirus, your trip cancellation and interruption benefits would remain intact.

The US State Department has to date maintained an, “Exercise Increased Caution” advisory level (which it raised originally in January to warn against possible  political disturbances) but has not raised that level to either “Reconsider Travel” or “Avoid all travel.” At this point it is urging travellers to Italy to follow Italian government advice.

Also make sure you consider trip cancellation/interruption upgrades to your out-of-country medical insurance policy. Cancellation coverage can shelter any money you will have paid out for non-reimbursable hotel or other tour reservations. But such insurance has to be purchased at the time of your booking or very shortly thereafter. Make sure you ask your travel advisor to explain the exclusions and limitations of such coverage before committing to a purchase.

© Copyright 2020 Milan Korcok. All rights reserved.

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