U.S. officials on Friday urged Americans to reconsider travel to Italy, an escalation of its warning over a coronavirus outbreak that’s infected more than 650 people and killed 17.
The U.S. State Department raised its travel warning to Italy to a level 3, its second-highest. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised its warning to a level 3 (its highest), urging Americans to avoid nonessential travel to Italy.
Italy is the first European country to receive such warnings from U.S. officials. The outbreak is concentrated in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto. Earlier this week, government officials sealed off a dozen towns.
Elsewhere in Europe, Germany has 48 confirmed cases of coronavirus, while France has 41. Italy and South Korea have the highest number of cases outside China.
Earlier this week, universities including Villanova University in Pennsylvania and Florida International University canceled their study abroad programs in Italy and urged students and employees to return to the United States. Walt Disney World told a group of employees who had traveled to Italy to stay home.
Italy had taken Europe’s most stringent preventative measures against coronavirus and yet became home to the biggest outbreak outside Asia.
Buses, trains, and other forms of public transport – including boats in Venice – are being disinfected, according to Veneto regional Gov. Luca Zaia.
Keep up to date on coronavirus:Get USA TODAY’s Daily Briefing in your inbox
The CDC has also issued level 3 travel advisories (its highest warning, which recommends travelers avoid all nonessential travel) for China and South Korea and level 2 advisories (“practice enhanced precautions”) for Japan and Iran.
The State Department has coronavirus-related advisories for Hong Kong and Japan at level 2. South Korea received a level 3 (“reconsider travel”) on Wednesday. China reached a level 4 – “do not travel” – on Feb. 2.
Korean Air said Tuesday one of its crew members tested positive for the virus, but the airline didn’t disclose the flights the employee had worked on.
Worldwide, over 80,200 cases have been confirmed, with over 2,700 deaths from the virus as of Tuesday morning.
An Italian doctor staying at a hotel in Spain’s Canary Islands tested positive for coronvirus and is being quarantined in a local clinic, Canary Islands president Ángel Víctor Torres confirmed Monday night on Twitter.
Carnival, other popular events shut down
Venice shut down its iconic carnival Sunday – three days early – as Italy tightened restrictions on large public gatherings that could fan the spread of the virus. Zaia made the decision after the number of cases rose to become the largest number outside Asia.
Museums in Venice, a top tourist attraction year-round, were also ordered to shut down. Elsewhere, major league soccer matches have been called off and theaters, including Milan’s legendary La Scala, have closed their doors.
Milan Fashion Week came to a close Monday with mixed responses to coronavirus concerns. Designer Giorgio Armani held his show behind closed doors Sunday and streamed the event from inside an empty showroom. Other designers continued as usual with packed runway shows as some audience members wore protective masks.
Contributing: The Associated Press