Updates on the coronavirus in Florence and Tuscany – March 9
I have chosen to start a new post with updated information on the coronavirus in our region rather than continue to update my initial post about the coronavirus. In this way, we can see how things are evolving. I’ve chosen to maintain the same Q&A format to make it easier to give out info.
Is it is a risk to visit Tuscany at the moment?
Tuscany is not currently classified as an area at risk.
Tuscany and Italy have one of the most efficient healthcare systems in the world. As such, Tuscany has guaranteed that all visitors who contract the disease – whether here for recreation, study or work – will receive the same health assistance that it offers to its citizens which is free, public, and universal.
The exceptional controls and measures Italy has adapted from the very start of the outbreak has made it possible to trace cases extremely quickly. While this quick identification of the cases might be seen abroad as an outbreak (we’ve seen the media abroad has taken alarming tones, to put it mildly), it means that infected people are identified and contained. The worrying part is actually the long incubation period for this new virus: while the national government put into “quarantine” several towns and created “red zones” in northern Italy (Lombardy and Veneto) where the outbreak began, people have still been able to move around unhindered beyond those areas.
On March 4 and 8, the Italian Government adopted further extraordinary measures to prevent the spread of the disease, first by closing schools and universities, and second by closing museums, cinemas and other social venues where people gather to further prevent the spread of the virus. More details below.
What is the current situation in Tuscany?
There are no contagious hot spots in Tuscany.
All patients that have been identified as being positive to coronavirus are in isolation or in treatment.
The spread that has occurred over the last week is a sign of the long incubation process (14 days) of the illness, where people moved and came into contact with more people every day without realizing they were infected, before any symptoms started showing up.
What is the current situation across Italy?
As of March 8, the entire region of Lombardy and 14 other surrounding provinces, including Venice and parts of the Emilia Romagna region, have travel restrictions and it is forbidden to leave those areas unless absolutely necessary.
Trains and planes are still operational – but in that area, people should not leave and this is a measure to stop the spread of the virus.
As of this evening at 10pm Monday, March 9, the prime minister of Italy has declared the entire country in lock down. We are to stay home and only leave if really necessary, for work purposes and to do groceries.
What is the current situation of coronavirus in Italy?
Head to the site of the Protezione Civile which is in charge of this crisis to see the current numbers of coronavirus across the country. The site published up to date information on the cases once a day around 5pm local time – http://opendatadpc.maps.arcgis.com/a…c82fe38d4138b1
As of March 8, further restrictions have applied
—-> ALL public gatherings have been banned until April 3 <—–
This means NO weddings, funerals, concerts, sporting events, discos, bingo halls, video arcades.
All congresses, meetings, reunions, social events – including private parties – are cancelled/not allowed.
Competitive sports events – such as soccer matches – are now also suspended.
All MUSEUMS are now closed.
Restaurants and coffee bars, shops and churches are STILL OPEN between 6am and 6pm – as long as they can implement measures to ensure people are not crowded inside and have the relative distance of at least a meter between each other.
Grocery stores and markets remain open, all services and merchandise is moving so that places remain stocked. There are no empty shelves, but as you can imagine, hand sanitizers and disinfectants are gone and the amount of people inside is to be limited to avoid overcrowding.
How is the region responding to the virus?
The region is alert and constantly in touch with local and health authorities to monitor the current cases and their care.
Regional trains and public transport are being disinfected daily.
Public spaces in airports are being sanitized on a regular basis, hand disinfectant dispensers across terminals are available to help keep hands clean.
Is public transport running as normal?
Yes, all public transport is currently running normally. Aside from some national airlines limiting or canceling flights into Italy, within Italy all airlines, trains and buses are running as usual.
Are museums and attractions open? Are restaurants open?
All attractions – including museums – are NOW CLOSED (as of March 10). Restaurants, gelato shops and bars are currently still allowed to be open from 6am to 6pm as long as they handle matters to ensure people are not crowded indoors. Many have been encouraged to set up home delivery of food, but it is not feasible for everyone and many have announced they will close, if they haven’t already done so. Please call ahead to check if your favorite place has closed down or remains open – they do appreciate the patronage when it is possible (currently, if you are working and need a lunch break, these are the clients that can actually be out and about and eat out).
Have any hotels in Florence, Siena, etc stopped taking bookings?
No but, at the moment, we acknowledge if you hadn’t already planned a vacation, it is advisable you hold off for a while before booking for later this summer and year.
Can I visit northern Italy during my trip?
Not at the moment, unless you travel for specific work or study purposes, we don’t recommend you do. If you can keep away from the areas that we know have a lot of sick people, it is better for your own health to stay away.
Should I cancel my trip?
Since Tuscany is not classed as a risk area at the moment, there is no reason to cancel your trip to Tuscany, especially if it is from May onward.
In the case that a cancellation becomes necessary, the general cancellation policy of the companies you booked with will apply.
For more information about those policies, you should contact directly those companies where you have bookings in place, be it a hotel other accommodation like a farmhouse or a tour company for tours. If you have bought travel insurance to cover your trip or airfare, contact them too and find out by when you need to request cancellations or changed.
If you decide to cancel your trip to Tuscany and Italy, you might also consider whether you can just change the dates for your travel. It could be a way to avoid losing money on your travel plans.
If you’ve decided to go ahead and travel during this time, what can you do while traveling to have a safe trip?
Protecting yourself means you should follow some simple but effective rules:
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after touching surfaces that countless other people have touched (think hand bars on buses and airports)
- Do not touch your mouth, eyes or nose with your hands.
- Cover your mouth and nose if you sneeze or cough.
- If you know someone suffering from acute respiratory infections at the moment, try to avoid immediate contact
- Use a mask only if you think you might be ill to avoid spreading germs or if you assist anyone that is clearly ill.
- Do not take antiviral or antibiotic medicines unless they have been prescribed by a doctor.
- Clean surfaces around you with chlorine- or alcohol-based disinfectants.
Keep in mind that:
- MADE IN CHINA products and packages from China are not dangerous. Neither are products that are Made in Italy.
- Pets do not spread the new coronavirus.
To have current numbers and recommendations on how to protect yourself in general and while traveling, check out the World Health Organization‘s page dedicated to the coronavirus: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 as well as the CDC page: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
Once you’re in Tuscany, what should you do in case of an emergency?
At the moment, the Italian Ministry of Health has set up an emergency hotline 24/7 which you can call for more information: all you need to do is dial 1500.
The region of Tuscany has also set up a free number to answer questions regarding local cases but it isn’t run all day and night. The number is 800.55 6060, punch option 1. Available Monday through Friday, 9am-6pm.
If you believe you come in contact with someone who has a confirmed infection of Covid-19, get in touch with local health agencies to request assistance – DO NOT go to a local hospital without their express authorization. At this point in time, it is important that possibly infected people do not show up at the hospital and further infect hospital staff.
- ASL central Tuscany (Florence, Prato, Pistoia, Empoli): 055.5454777 firstname.lastname@example.org
- ASL north-west Tuscany (Pisa, Livorno, Lucca, Massa Carrara, Viareggio): 050.954444
- ASL south-east Tuscany (Arezzo, Grosseto, Siena): 800.579579
About Lourdes Flores
An American living in Florence for over 10 years, Lourdes continues to explore and discover new places in Tuscany with the eyes of a tourist but with the experience of living in Italy. She shares her experiences on this blog and website, particularly offering lots of travel planning help on the Forum!