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March 13th, 2020

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Hello, fellow travelers, This is going to be something of an open letter as we navigate our way through the complications presented by the current COVID-19 outbreak.

***UPDATE: Since writing the article below, Italy has gone on lockdown until April 3rd. There is no travel allowed in and out of the country. We're in touch with all our customers who have travel planned in the next few weeks. If you have any questions regarding your travels in Italy with us, please get in touch.***

I admit it’s a difficult time to travel, especially on vacation. Having said that, know that we at Avventure Bellissime are doing everything in our power to keep our guests (and staff) safe, as we always do. It’s one of the reasons our guests come back time and time again. Safety and security are paramount for us.

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History of coronaviruses

I think we could all use some perspective though, don’t you think? This isn’t the first coronavirus. Humans have been getting them for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The common cold is a coronavirus! In fact, we’ve lived through difficult outbreaks of them before.

Remember SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome)? Those were also coronaviruses. It’s something that has been happening.

The reason this particular outbreak is so concerning is its fast spread and some cases unconnected to the original zones. Yes, it’s deadly and yes, it can feel scary. But I think that a lot of the fear is generated by sensationalized media, so let’s remember that.

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How Italy is handling COVID-19

Yes, there has been a large spread and quite a few deaths from the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy. Although it has been concentrated mostly in the regions of Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia Romagna, all 20 of Italy’s regions have cases.

Deaths from the virus, however, have been mostly in patients who:

  • Were already in the hospital for other treatments.
  • Had underlying health complications, like cancer.
  • Were older, most over 80 years old.

According to the WHO, most of those who have the virus (about 80%) have had only mild symptoms and will recover quite quickly, as from the common cold or a bout of flu.

In order to contain the outbreak, Italian officials have released the following guidelines:

  • No hugging, handshakes, or unnecessary person-to-person touching.
  • Advised over 75-year-olds to stay at home.
  • Eleven towns in Lombardy and one in Veneto have been quarantined to prevent spread.
  • Schools, public festivals, and some venues have been closed temporarily.
  • Incoming passengers are being scanned for fever (one of the first, most common symptoms) in airports, both international and domestic.

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How to decide whether to travel

Only you can make that decision. No countries have been entirely quarantined although unnecessary travel has been advised against for certain locations, Italy among them. There are some members of the population who are more likely to come down with the virus:

  • Older people
  • People with compromised immune systems
  • People with underlying medical conditions, such as uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic respiratory illness, and cancer.

This tendency for the immunocompromized to get the disease is common, also seen in influenza, as well as SARS and MERS.

Age is also a factor, as the COVID-19 virus seems to affect older people a vast majority of the time, with 14% of deaths occurring in the over 80 age group.

The US has issued a travel advisory for travel to Italy, including a level 4 “Do Not Travel” for the northern, worst affected regions.

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Handling the outbreak

Symptoms only start appearing 14 days after infection and you’re contagious for all of that time. This makes it difficult to control the spread as you can get it and spread it for a long time before you even know you’re sick.

In order to protect yourself and those around you, you should:

  • Wash your hands frequently and properly. With soap and water for at least 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday).
  • When you can’t wash your hands, use a high-alcohol hand sanitizer (at least 60%).
  • Avoid contact with sick people wherever possible.
  • If you are coughing or sneezing, wear a respiratory mask. The mask won’t help you from catching anything but it can help to slow the spread.
  • Avoid sharing dishes, bottles, glasses, cups, or cutlery.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces you deal with regularly.
  • Avoid touching your face, mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

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Travel insurance and travel advisories

I always advise taking out travel insurance whenever you travel. This is especially true in times when there is an outbreak like this, but honestly, emergencies can arise at any time.

Most travel insurance covers certain cancellations, like those because of illness, divorce, or bereavement. Because the spread of this virus has been extremely fast and travel advisories are coming out all the time, whether you are covered for cancellation will depend on your insurance provider.

However, it’s important to have your travel insurance in place before any travel advisories have been announced. Always book insurance as soon as your trip is confirmed!

Additionally, your insurance should cover medical treatment in a foreign country and medical evacuation in the event of an emergency. That means you’ll be cared for in the event that you do get sick.

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Learn more about COVID-19

If you’d like to learn more about the virus, your chances of getting it, and how to travel safely in spite of it, here are a few great resources:

Going forward

As I said at the beginning, we will do everything within our power to keep our guests safe. Many of our trips go to great lengths to avoid crowds in the best of times!

Most attractions in Rome and southern Italy are open and ready for business. We will also be in touch with specific customers regarding particular trips and will keep communicating while we navigate our way through this together.

Please get in touch if you have any questions regarding your travel with us in Italy.

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