Brits from Coronavirus-hit Italy told to ‘self-isolate’ – even without symptoms

Brits who have been to Coronavirus-hit parts of Italy were today told to "self-isolate" – even if they are not showing any symptoms.

The UK government has issued new advice – saying anyone who has returned from now-quarantined areas of Lombardy and Veneto since February 19 should stay at home, avoid contact with loved ones and call NHS 111, no matter what.

Those who've visited the entire region of Italy north of Pisa should also self-isolate, but only if they show symptoms.

This is not the first time the UK government has asked people to self-isolate even if they don't have symptoms. The same advice applies to those who've visited Iran; special care zones in South Korea; and Hubei province in China.

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The UK government has also itself quarantined Brits it flew home from epicentre Wuhan. Read the full guidance here.

A small region of Italy has had an explosion of around 220 cases over the weekend.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was "worried" about the virus and will be updating the Cabinet this morning. He told the BBC: "The official advice, which will be formally updated at 8am [on Tuesday], is going to change.

"So that those who’ve been to Northern Italy – that’s essentially anybody who’s been to Italy north of Pisa – should, if they have flu-like symptoms, self-isolate.

"Which means go home and try to stay out of contact with other people.

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"If people have been to the affected areas that the Italian government have quarantined, then they should self-isolate whether or not they have symptoms.

"That is the official advice from the Chief Medical Officer and will be formally updated very shortly. This is the same type of approach we’ve taken to places in the Far East."

Mr Hancock – who is hosting a weekly COBRA meeting on the virus – urged people to do simple things like wash their hands and cover their faces when they sneeze.

He said the Government was not aware of any Britons who were in the quarantined areas of northern Italy. But he urged anyone to make contact with the embassy in Rome.

"We are not aware of any British citizens who are within the quarantined area, if they are we would ask them to get in contact with the consulate in Rome," he said.

Mr Hancock said that there were no changes to travel advice about going to Italy but those returning and showing symptoms should self-isolate.

He said it was not a surprise that there were cases so close to the UK – and more cases could be expected in Britain over time.

He added: "In terms of going to Italy as a whole we haven't changed that travel advice.

"But we are clear that if you come back from northern Italy and you have symptoms then you should self-isolate."

The coronavirus has infected nearly 77,000 people and killed more than 2,500 in China, most of them in Hubei.

Overall, China reported 409 new cases on the mainland, down from 648 a day earlier.

Outside mainland China, the outbreak has spread to some 29 countries and territories, with a death toll of about two dozen, according to a Reuters tally.

South Korea reported 231 new cases, taking its total to 833.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warned the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the economy could be "very strong".

"At this moment we can calculate that there will be a negative economic impact, we are not yet in a position to forecast what will happen," he told reporters.

Italy is struggling to contain the Europe's largest coronavirus outbreak, whose epicentre is in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto, the industrial and financial heartlands of the country.

On Monday, cases climbed above 220 with seven deaths reported.

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