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Cruise: Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruises extend suspension of voyages amid covid-19

Most people have put their holiday plans on hold due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Cruise voyages have been suspended and flights have been cancelled, leading to an influx of refunds. But while cruise customers were hoping for their future voyage plans to remain intact, their holiday dreams may have just been dashed.

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Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruises both announced today that they will be extending their voyage suspensions.

Norwegian Cruises said the extension now includes voyages embarking between April 12 and May 10 2020 for its three cruise brands.

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The move is to help contribute to the global efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The extension includes voyages for Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd said that covid-19 is still having a “significant impact on communities” across the globe.

He said: “With COVID-19 continuing to have a significant impact on communities throughout the world, we are extending our temporary suspension of cruise voyages across our three brands through May 10.

While we understand this disruption may inconvenience our loyal guests and valued travel partners, we are committed first and foremost to protecting the safety, security and well-being of our guests, crew, and the communities we visit.

“We appreciate their continued understanding as we navigate through these unprecedented times and do our part to help global efforts to contain this pandemic.”

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Guests who are currently booked on voyages with embarkation dates between March 13 and May 10 2020 on Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises or Regent Seven Seas Cruises have been asked to contact their travel agent or the cruise line for more information.

Royal Caribbean said that the move was to provide “peace of mind in guest travel planning”.

They said they are now extending its ‘Cruise with Confidence’ cancellation policy to September 1 2020.

The updated policy will allow customers to plan flexibly and cancel their voyages up to 48 hours prior to sailing for any reason.

However, guests will not receive a cash refund but credit instead which is usable on any future sailing of choice in 2020 or 2021.

Company chairman and CEO Richard Fain said: “Guests are reacting positively to our Cruise with Confidence policy.

“Because it enables them to make informed decisions and to better manage complicated travel plans during this unprecedented time of uncertainty.”

“We want our guests to feel they can safely keep their existing cruise bookings or schedule new sailings.

“Because this policy gives them more freedom and flexibility.”

The extension applies to both new and existing cruise bookings.

The policy applies to all cruises with sailing dates on or before September 1, 2020, and applies to the company’s global brands.

Royal Caribbean Cruises is a renowned global cruise company that controls and operates four brands: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea Cruises.

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Travel

easyJet grounds entire fleet of aircraft over coronavirus after 650 rescue flights

The airline announced this morning in a shock move that amid the coronavirus pandemic, they will ground their fleet of aircraft. easyJet said in a statement: “As a result of the unprecedented travel restrictions imposed by governments in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the implementation of national lockdowns across many European countries, easyJet has, today, fully grounded its entire fleet of aircraft.

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“Over recent days easyJet has been helping to repatriate customers, having operated more than 650 rescue flights to date, returning home more than 45,000 customers.

“The last of these rescue flights were operated on Sunday March 29.

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“We will continue to work with Government bodies to operate additional rescue flights as requested.

“At this stage there can be no certainty of the date for restarting commercial flights.

“We will continuously evaluate the situation based on regulations and demand, and will update the market when we have a view.”

The airline said they have repatriated 45,000 Britons from around the world due to the coronavirus.

easyJet brought the last flight in yesterday and have done 650 rescue flights, according to Sky News.

If the Government wants them as a charter flight to bring more Britons home, they will reportedly be available.

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But the commercial sector of their business has closed for good now.

The company has worked with Unite the union to agree to two-month furlough arrangements for cabin crew.

This means that crew will be paid 80 percent of their average pay through the Government job retention scheme.

More to follow…

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Travel

Meghan Markle: Inside $75k-a-night New York hotel room where Duchess had her baby shower

Located in the prestigious Upper East Side of Manhattan, The Mark Hotel is a stunning, star-studded location that has seen its fair share of celebrities. But the best room in the entire place is not a room at all but a stunning 12,000-square-foot penthouse with views of New York’s skyline. Priced at a mouthwatering $75,000 (£63,000) per night, the suite is not only New York’s most expensive hotel room but it has hosted the likes of ex-Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, actress Katie Holmes and The Duchess of Sussex herself. Meghan’s extravagant baby shower was planned by no other than tennis champion Serena Williams and included a night in the top notch suite.

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So, what does $75,000-a-night get you on the corner of Madison Avenue?

The Mark Hotel calls the suite an “oasis in the sky” which has its own private lift that takes guests up to the 16th floor to access the famous penthouse suite.

The lift leads to the foyer which has for doors leading to different parts of the 12,000-square-foot penthouse.

Just before entering the lounge area, there is a seating room with a grand piano which leads to one of the most incredible aspects of the suite.

The lounge is an airy room with a plethora of windows, a billiard table, multiple seating areas and a 26-foot-tall cathedral ceiling.

The penthouse suite also includes a library which has a cozy seating area that is perfect for taking some timeout away from the busy city.

Opposite the bookshelves is one of the suite’s four fireplaces which were designed to make the space feel more homely than hotel-like.

The owner of The Mark Hotel Izak Senbahar told Fortune: “Our guests live truly global lives and also truly understand and expect rarified luxury and real comfort so we wanted to create a majestic space within the hotel that is the pinnacle of luxury in terms of design and amenities but also feels more like a majestic residence than a hotel suite.”

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Through the library, there is a a formal dining room that seats up to 24 people at a time.

Each room and most the furniture in the luxury penthouse was designed by French interior designer Jacques Grange who also designed the dining table.

The kitchen in the suite is surprisingly quite basic but there’s a reason for that.

Guests who stay in the penthouse also have access to in-room dining which includes caviar and can either book a private mixologist for $3,000 (£2526) to $5,000 (£4211) or book a 10-course dining experience with Michelin-star chef Jean-Georges for upwards of $10,000 (£8423).

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Up the stairs, is a beautiful conservatory which offers an exclusive view of the New York City skyline.

The room has sofas, armchairs, a fireplace, a wet bar and access to a 2,500 square-foot terrace with views that overlook Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During the winter months, guests can also enjoy the ice rink which is installed especially for guests.

The whole suite has a muted, neutral colour scheme and consists of five bedrooms which can house 15 guests.

The master bedroom has a floating fire place, an office area and a huge king size bed.

But one of the most amazing aspects of the suite is the master bathroom which has a large, walk-in shower on the left as you walk in, two sinks, a bidet and a deep soaking bath tub that has a window so you can look out onto New York while you relax.

The Mark also sells a bathrobe for $3,400 (£2863) if you want to dry off and relax in complete luxury.

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Travel

Can you guess the city from these vintage photos? Fewer than 5% get full marks

As the deadly sweeps the globe, many have been left with a lot more time on their hands. While some people take up new hobbies such as knitting or learning a new language, others have decided to give quizzes a go. And this quiz is likely to give even the biggest quiz master a run for their money.

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The tricky quiz has left 95 percent of Britons baffled.

Luxury tour provider Scenic Cruises put together the quiz in a bid to challenge readers to guess the iconic European city based on vintage photographs.

The images are sourced from public domain archives such as the British Library and Wellcome Collection.

Given how much Europe has changed over the centuries, the quiz has proven to be quite the challenge.

Over 1,000 Britons have so far taken a crack at the quiz but fewer than five percent have managed to get full marks.

The quiz includes handy hints for those who may know a bit about European architecture or gastronomy.

Some of the hints include “the most iconic skyline in the world” and the “gastronomical capital of the world”.

Each photo is in black and white and depicts either an iconic building or street scene.

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But be warned – the further you make it through the quiz, the harder it gets.

The first question should be easy for anyone who has a little bit of travel knowledge.

But the last question depicts only the most basic black and white street scene that, unless you know your European cities, looks like it could be anywhere.

Some of the cities in the quiz include Paris, Vienna, St Petersburg, Avignon, Madrid, Lisbon, Monte Carlo and Berlin.

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Berlin is known for having a rough time in the 20th century.

World War Two took an enormous toll on the city and its people.

The civilian population had borne the brunt of the bombings during this era.

At least 125,000 Berliners had lost their lives with a further one million women and children evacuated, only 2.4million people were left in the city in May 1945.

Germany was later divided into two states – east and west Germany – and was divided by a wall.

In November 1989, the Berlin Wall collapsed as East German spokesman Günter Schabowski announced that East Germans would be free to travel into West Germany.

Berlin is now the most populated city in the European Union with a population of 3.7million people.

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Travel

Spain travel: Can we travel to Spain? Are there UK flights to Spain?

Spain travel has become near-impossible thanks to the impact of the coronavirus, which has hit the country with 28,603 total cases, close to the most in Europe as a whole. The country has now come close to shutting its borders in a bid to prevent more cases and loss of life. 

Can we travel to Spain?

According to Reuters, Spain will direct a swathe of new travel restrictions on foreigners due to COVID-19. 

The Interior Ministry said today it would restrict entry for 30 days at air and seaports, to come alongside an extension to the current state of emergency.

The ban will commence from midnight on March 23, and exempts foreigners living in Spain, air crew, cargo and health workers and diplomats.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has also extended Spain’s state of emergency for another month. 

He addressed citizens in a television briefing today, in which he said he expected the Spanish Parliament to approve the extension to the original order introduced more than a week ago. 

Mr Sanchez added the country would need to enter next week from a “very strong” position. 

He said in his address: “There are hard days ahead.”

“We have to get ready from a physiological and emotional standpoint.

“We have to get to the end of next week strong, very strong.

“The risk is everywhere.

“Spain is among the most-affected countries in Europe and in the world.”

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Spain is amongst the most infected countries worldwide, with nearly 30,000 cases accounting for nearly 14 percent of global cases. 

Today alone the country saw a total increase of 3,107 infections, and 1,756 people have died. 

Of those who have contracted COVID-19, 2,125 have recovered, and 24,722 remain unwell. 

Spain’s rapid accumulation of infections could mean coronavirus soon burns out however, as authorities share a note of cautious optimism. 

Fernando Simon, director of the Spanish Coordinating Centre for Health Alerts and Emergencies, said today Spain may be approaching its coronavirus peak. 

Herevealed the country was “not very far away” from stabilising the curve, but warned against relaxing measures. 

Mr Simon said: “We are approaching the period in which perhaps, if we are lucky, we will turn the curve, stabilize and it’ll start to go down.

“The models indicate that we are not very far away, but relaxing the measures prematurely would mean starting again and we have to be very careful.”

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Coronavirus in Turkey: Is it safe to travel to Turkey? Are there still flights?

Coronavirus has spread to 170 countries around the world, with Turkey reporting the 27th highest number of infections in Europe. The deadly virus has infected 208,507 people around the world, 8,282 of which have died. But is it still safe to travel to Turkey and are flights still available?

Coronavirus has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

On Wednesday, Italy reported the highest daily death toll figure with 475 fatalities, an increase of 19 percent in the past 24 hours.

Italy is the hardest hit nation outside China and has been on total lockdown since March 9.

European Union leaders have agreed to close the bloc’s external borders to most non-EU citizens for 30 days.

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How serious is the coronavirus outbreak in Turkey?

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has urged Turkish nationals not to leave their homes except for emergencies in a bid to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking on Wednesday President Erdoğan said it would take three weeks to overcome the situation if the public complies with the measures outlined by authorities.

He said: “Pandemics have a relatively lower death toll compared to other diseases thanks to preventive health services and developments in the pharmaceutical sector.

“Still, they have the potential to cause mass deaths without preventive measures.

“We need to take fast and effective measures. We don’t know how this (virus) will affect humanity.

“We are entering an era with likely radical changes in the global, economic, political and social order,”

The president also called on citizens not to visit hospitals outside emergency cases so staff will be relieved of extra workloads in the event of a rise in infection cases.

The first official case of coronavirus was reported in Turkey on March 11.

However, the country first began launching measures fighting against coronavirus in January, such as launching thermal screening for flights from China.

There are 98 confirmed coronavirus cases in Turkey now, meaning the number of cases increased by 51 over a 24-hour period according to the country’s Health Minister.

Of those cases, one person has sadly died, while 97 are still unwell.

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The first fatality announced on Tuesday was a man, aged 89.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said: “The patient that fell victim to coronavirus is found to have contracted the disease from a Chinese employee.”

On Wednesday, Turkey restricted travel, closing its borders with Greece and Bulgaria.

Travellers are no longer permitted to enter or leave through the Pazarkule and Ipsala border gates and Uzunkopru railway border gate to Greece, as well as Derekoy, Hamzabeyli and Kapikule gates to Bulgaria, according to Anadolu Agency.

Is it safe to travel to Turkey?

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all travel to areas within six miles of the border with Syria, except the city of Kilis.

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to:

All other areas of Sirnak, Kilis (including Kilis city) and Hatay provinces

The provinces of Diyarbakir, Tunceli and Hakkari.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Turkey announced all flights between Turkey and the UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE will be cancelled from 8am (local time) on Tuesday.

The FCO advises travellers to check with their airlines before setting off, particularly when returning from Turkey as options are becoming increasingly limited.

Are flights still running from Turkey?

On Monday, Turkey imposed flight bans to six more countries, including the UK and Saudi Arabia.

This ban was in addition to the 20 other countries already included in the ban.

All flights between the UK and Turkey have now been cancelled.

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Coronavirus UK train travel: Can I get a refund on my train season ticket?

Coronavirus has infected 2,626 cases in the UK prompting Prime Minister Boris Johnson to urge Britons to avoid non-essential social contact. People have been urged to work from home where possible. But for those who buy expensive seasonal travel tickets, can you get a refund?

This week, Mr Johnson has implemented a number of measures in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

Schools around the UK will close from Friday until further notice.

Supermarket shelves have been emptied and many sporting and other events have been cancelled.

In the worst case scenarios, if nothing is done, up to 80 percent of people could be infected.

Social distancing and self-isolation have been advised to suppress the spread.

The Government has taken “wartime” action and is asking people to reduce social contact, with the strongest warnings for the most vulnerable.

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Anyone showing symptoms is asked not to leave their homes, while anyone with a fever or persistent cough is urged to stay at home for 14 days.

People are told to work from home where possible and avoid places like pubs, clubs and theatres, as well as all unnecessary travel.

By the weekend, those with the most serious health conditions, which are around 1.4 million with conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or asthma should be shielded from social contact for 12 weeks.

London is the worst hit area of the UK in terms of coronavirus cases.

According to Public Health England, as of March 18, there are 953 cases of the virus in London.

This is more than three times the South East, which is the region with the second highest number of confirmed cases in the UK.

This week, Londoners started to avoid the Underground, with Transport for London expected to lose £500m as a result of the outbreak.

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Can you get a refund on a season train ticket?

Railway season ticket holders are potentially facing months of uncertainty as the COVID-19 outbreaks spreads across the country.

Passengers have taken to social media to express their confusion about where they stand in terms of refunds.

Rail chiefs have confirmed train operators have relaxed refund restrictions to assist travellers with the viral pandemic.

Other companies are bringing additional precautions into effect after the Government instituted new social distancing measures.

Are you eligible for a refund?

Three types of season tickets are sold by British railway companies: weekly, monthly and yearly.

Each ticket comes with different limits on refunds.

Train companies calculate season ticket refunds by working out the cheapest alternative way the holder could have travelled the journeys they have made.

A Rail Delivery Group spokesman told the Evening Standard: “Train companies understand that at the moment people may not wish to travel in the way they had originally planned.

“Season tickets can be refunded, depending on how long is left unused on them, and people should get in touch with their train company or the website from which they bought their ticket to see what they might be entitled to.”

How much money could you get refunded?

Refunds are subject to the terms and conditions of each operator and depends on the specific circumstances.

Some train operators institute a £10 admin fee for refunds on season tickets and this is likely to remain in effect with coronavirus refunds due to the sheer numbers of tickets which will likely be refunded.

The RDG said train operators have also waived “refund fees” on most refundable fares (Anytime, Off-Peak, Super Off-Peak and Rover/Ranger) and the “change of journey fee” for advance tickets, which is normally £10.

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Coronavirus Turkey map: The top regions in Turkey struck down by killer virus

Coronavirus has infected 206,941 people around the world, of which 8,275 people have died. An entry ban has been agreed for all EU member states, with a group flying from Turkey forced to go back from Germany’s biggest airport in Frankfurt late on Tuesday. But how severe is the situation in Turkey – here are the top regions in Turkey affected by the deadly infection.

Coronavirus is a global pandemic affecting more than 170 countries and territories around the world.

A pandemic, as designated by the World Health Organization (WHO), is when a disease has spread between people in multiple countries across the globe at the same time.

The last confirmed pandemic spread around the globe in 2009 when swine flu hit.

Currently, the global death toll for COVID-19 stands at 8,275.

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How bad is the coronavirus outbreak in Turkey?

The first official case of coronavirus was reported in Turkey on March 11.

Before this time the country launched defensive measures such as installing thermal cameras at airports and airlifting Turkish citizens from the originating location Wuhan City in China.

In early February, Turkey stopped all flights from China and on February 29, the country stopped all flights to and from Italy, South Korea and Iraq.

There are currently 98 confirmed coronavirus cases in Turkey.

The number of cases increased by 51 over a 24-hour period according to the country’s Health Minister.

Of those cases, one person has sadly died, while 97 are still unwell.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said: “The patient that fell victim to coronavirus is found to have contracted the disease from a Chinese employee.”

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Mr Koca previously announced Turkey intends to ban flights from nine additional countries starting on Tuesday, bringing the total number of restricted countries to 20.

As Turkey’s capital Ankara heightens its measures to curb the pandemic, the Interior Ministry implemented a nationwide closure of almost all social gathering places, including cafes, cinemas, gyms and wedding halls.

The ministry also ordered all bars, discos and nightclubs to be closed.

Furthermore, Turkey’s chief religious authority, the Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), announced a ban on prayer gatherings, including Friday prayers, while leaving the mosques open to people who want to perform daily prayers.

Schools were closed for two weeks starting on March 16, while universities have been closed for three weeks.

On Wednesday, Turkey closed its borders with Greece and Bulgaria.

Passengers will not be allowed to enter or leave through the Pazarkule and Ipsala border gates and Uzunkopru railway border gate to Greece, as well as Derekoy, Hamzabeyli and Kapikule gates to Bulgaria, according to Anadolu Agency.

Turkey’s entrance ports will be suspended, with the exemption of freight transportation.

President Recep Tayyip confirmed the country will be introducing flexible working mderls and postponing social security premiums and VAT deductions for six months.

Additionally, the country will provide stock finance support to exporters during the coronavirus slowdown.

The Turkish government has not confirmed exactly where the cases of coronavirus have been reported.

However, on Wednesday, Turkey’s vice president said more than 2,800 Turkish nationals were brought home at their request from nine European countries Ankara barred entry from, to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Additionally, 2,807 nationals were put under a 14-day quarantine in large dormitories located in the Istanbul and Kocaeli provinces.

Speculation about a state of emergency being declared in Ankara arose on Tuesday, but the rumours were dismissed by the head of Turkey’s communications directorate.

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Coronavirus Belgium map: The top regions in Belgium struck down by killer virus

Coronavirus has infected 138,097 people as of March 13, 5,069 of which have died so far. Belgium has the 11th highest number of infections of any European country at 556, three of which have died. Express.co.uk have compiled a guide for which regions have been worst hit by the deadly virus.

Coronavirus is now affecting more than 130 countries and territories around the world.

Several countries are implementing stringent measures to protect their nationals such as implementing travel restrictions, cancelling sporting events and closing schools.

The viral outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) this week, with experts estimating the number of cases will reach in the hundreds of thousands.

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How bad is the coronavirus outbreak in Belgium?

Belgium activated emergency measures to contain the outbreak of coronavirus this week.

The Belgian National Security Council decided to declare a state of emergency over the entire country.

Under the new emergency measures, all recreational and sports events will be cancelled or postponed until April 3.

Public places such as restaurants, bars, cafes and nightclubs are also ordered to close from Friday at midnight local time to April 3.

Schools in Belgium will be closed as of Monday, with a daycare service maintained for working parents with no alternative options.

Belgium’s caretaker Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès said the emergency measures were not equivalent to the Italy lockdown.

Ms Wilmès advised citizens from stockpiling, she said: “It is not reasonable to storm the stores and empty the shelves”.

Shops offering basic goods such as medicine and food will remain open as normal, while other shops are permitted to stay open during the week but must close during the weekend.

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The National Crisis Centre confirmed 153 new cases had been confirmed on Friday.

Professor Steven Van Gucht told Brussel Times: “This new number is an underestimation.”

He added the current state of play regarding coronavirus is just the beginning of the epidemic.

He said: “The effect of the measures we are taking now will only show itself in the number of cases in a week or two.”

In total, there are 556 confirmed cases of a novel coronavirus in Belgium, of those three have died.

Belgium has seen one person fully recover, while 552 are still active cases, two of which are deemed as in serious or critical condition.

The first case, an asymptomatic 54-year-old man, was confirmed on February 4 in Brussels.

Since that time, 555 additional cases have been diagnosed in Belgium, with three deaths reported this week.

Unlike its neighbouring European countries, the Belgian authorities are unwilling to provide any information or statistics on where cases are located, beyond statistics for each region.

Such as:

  • Flanders: 230
  • Brussels: 42
  • Wallonia: 78

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Coronavirus in Italy: Is it safe to travel to Italy? Are there still flights?

Italy is currently suffering the worst coronavirus outbreak in Europe. The nation is also the second-worst COVID-19 hit country in the world behind China.

Is it safe to travel to Italy?

Coronavirus cases in Italy have now exceeded 10,000, and British nationals are currently being advised not to travel to Italy.

In the country 631 people infected with COVID-19 have died as of March 11.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise “against all but essential travel to Italy” as the COVID-19 outbreak continues.

This is in-line with the advice of the Italian authorities, who are currently advising against all travel for tourism purposes.

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What if you are already in Italy?

According to the FCO, British nationals are still “able to depart Italy without restriction”.

As the Italian authorities are advising against travel for tourism, they advise tourists already in Italy should end their travel and return to where they live.

Across Italy, a number of tourist attractions such as museums and landmarks have been closed.

Schools and universities are also closed until April 3.

Airports across the country remain open, but flight schedules are disrupted.

If you are returning from Italy, it’s important to follow the advice of the Department of Health and Social Care, which you can find HERE. 

If you think you have symptoms of coronavirus while in Italy, call Italy’s 112 emergency number.

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Are there still flights running?

The FCO advise all remaining British tourists in Italy travel back to the UK as soon as possible.

The FCO advice reads: “Airline schedules are subject to change and some flights are being cancelled.

“We therefore advise all remaining British tourists in Italy to contact their airline operators to arrange return to the UK as soon as possible.”

The FCO advises travellers currently in Italy to check their flight details with their airlines.

Easyjet has cancelled all flights to Italy until April 3.

British Airways and Ryanair have also cancelled all flights until next month.

After Flybe’s collapse earlier this month, all flights from the airline have also been cancelled.

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