Furious passengers set to travel to Italian cities hit by the outbreak said they had been left in the lurch with no official safety advice.
As other countries ramped up advice not to travel to the Italy crisis zone, Downing Street insisted Britain is ‘well prepared’ for an outbreak.
Italy has dramatically stepped up its fight to contain the virus after a huge spike in cases, with 229 diagnoses confirmed and seven dead.
The country has effectively placed 50,000 citizens in lockdown by shutting off more than a dozen towns and cancelling public events.
Britons returning from the worst-affected northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto are expected to be told to self-quarantine at home.
A tourist wears a face mask in Venice, where the annual Carnival has been scrapped for fear of spreading coronavirus
Mask: Soldier on patrol outside Milan’s Duomo yesterday after a spike in coronavirus cases
Taking no chances: Passengers wear masks and overalls on the Milan metro following the coronavirus outbreak
TERRIFIED I’LL BE STUCK IN VENICE
Philippa Rose, 26, from Leicester, is due to fly to Venice next Saturday with her partner for their anniversary.
‘As two young and fit individuals we aren’t so worried about catching the virus itself, but more about delays in getting home and the possibility of being quarantined over there,’ she said.
‘Our main worry is getting stuck.
‘It’s despicable that in the wake of this outbreak, there has been radio silence from the officials we rely on for advice.
‘Everything online is for those travelling to China/Asia and nothing for Italy.’
The chief medical officer will today add these virus hotbeds to a list of places where a visit warrants isolation once back on UK soil, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Currently, Britons returning from these affected areas are being told to ‘continue as normal’ after calling 111 for advice.
Italy’s outbreak sparked panic across Europe, with buses and trains carrying Italian passengers across borders halted after those on board reported symptoms.
It comes as experts have branded the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus a pandemic ‘in all but name’.
In Europe, Austria threatened to close its borders if suspected carriers tried to enter from Italy, while Ireland and Serbia advised citizens not to travel to the affected areas in the north of the country.
The EU insisted it has no plans to close the Schengen travel zone to stop the spread but announced a £195million rescue plan.
The Italian government has launched a series of draconian measures to stop the spread, while desperately trying to trace ‘patient zero’ – the unknown carrier at the centre of the spike of cases.
More than two dozen flights are expected to leave the UK for northern Italy today.
British passengers yesterday told how they had cancelled trips over fears they could be trapped in Italy if the situation worsens.
In the first signs of strain, a British Airways flight from Heathrow to Milan was delayed by 20 minutes yesterday morning when a passenger asked to get off the flight over coronavirus fears.
A 67-year-old passenger who gave her name as Lea criticised the Government’s response as she cancelled a trip from Stansted to Venice yesterday.
An ambulance in a deserted Codogno, one the northern Italian towns placed under lockdown
Tourists wear protective facemasks as they visit Venice, where the Venice Carnival festivities have been axed for fear of compounding the country’s coronavirus woes
Carabinieri block the road in Zovon near Venice to limit the spread of coronavirus. Six deaths and 229 infections in Italy has fanned panic in neighbouring countries and sparked a clamour for governments to clamp down on border checks
Infection worries shake world markets
It came as more than a $1 trillion was wiped off the value of the world’s stock markets over fears about the virus outbreak.
Infection fears from investors shaved 5.4 per cent off the Milan stock exchange after the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto – the industrial and financial heartlands – went into lockdown.
Today’s market slide could just be the start of Italy’s woes, with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warning the economic hit could be ‘very strong’.
He said: ‘The economic impact 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.’
She said: ‘The Government advice is not relevant to the situation. It’s pitiful and no help whatsoever to anybody.’
Diego Gullo, who flew from Milan to Gatwick on Thursday, told how he had placed himself and his family in quarantine after returning from Codogno, the town at the centre of Italy’s outbreak.
Speaking from his home in north London, he told Sky News: ‘I haven’t had any specific advice, there is no check in the UK.
We did call 111 and we were not told anything in particular… they suggested to just continue as usual.’
Airlines including Easyjet and Ryanair last night said flights would go ahead pending any official advice and that travellers were not entitled to refunds.
Italy has shut down at least 35 roads surrounding a cluster of towns in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, where the virus began to spread.
Those who attempted to leave were threatened with three-month prison sentences.
There have also been confirmed cases in the Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna regions.
Professor John Ashton, a former regional director of public health in north-west England, criticised Boris Johnson for not spelling out how Britain would respond to any eventual outbreak.
He said: ‘At the moment a lot of information is based on rumour.’ The virus has a 0.7 per cent mortality rate, WHO said yesterday.
Coronavirus epidemic ‘has PEAKED in China’ says World Health Organisation – but warn the rest of the world to prepare for a ‘potential pandemic’
By Jack Elsom for MailOnline
Coronavirus has now ‘peaked’ in China, according to the World Health Organisation which praised Beijing’s robust measures to insulate the outbreak.
While the number of cases continues to rise – surpassing 77,000 – the rate at which new infections are sprouting up has started decelerating.
But while officials firefighting the epidemic in China can take solace in the slow-down, other countries have been warned to brace for a ‘potential pandemic’ as the virus continues to spill out across the globe.
WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom said the peak in China occurred between January 23 and February 2, with the amount of fresh diagnoses ‘declining steadily since then’.
‘This virus can be contained,’ he told reporters in Geneva, praising China for helping to prevent an even bigger spread of the disease through unprecedented lockdowns and quarantines around the outbreak’s epicentre.
To quell the outbreak, Beijing has imposed drastic travel bans and quarantined entire cities – while also accused of scrubbing the internet of supposed scare stories.
But since coronavirus spawned in Wuhan late last year, it has spread to infect over 79,000 people globally and killing more than 2,600.
Dr Tedros Adhanom said coronavirus has now ‘peaked’ in China as the rate of new infections is slowly decelerating
Volunteer barbers cut the hair for medical workers at the residence of medical team for Hankou Hospital in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei Province
The WHO said the current crisis, which has infected almost 80,000 people and killed 2,600, is a cluster of cases in 36 countries and territories
Italian tourist tests positive on Tenerife
Italy’s spiralling coronavirus outbreak has started to spill across the continent, with a tourist from the infection-plagued Lombardy region testing positive on Tenerife.
The patient, understood to be a doctor, had travelled to the Spanish holiday island from the Italian region, which has been locked down following a cluster of cases.
Seven people have died and 229 have been infected in Italy, which is firefighting Europe’s first major outbreak.
The Italian was tested for the killer virus after going to a private clinic in Adeje in the south of Tenerife after falling ill.
Canary Islands president Angel Victor Torres confirmed: ‘This afternoon the coronavirus protocol has been activated for an Italian tourist in the south of Tenerife.
‘The result from the first test carried out in the Canaries is positive. Tomorrow new tests will take place in Madrid. The patient has been quarantined.’
A spokesman for the regional health authority added: ‘The protocol states that a second test must take place at the National Microbiology Centre at the Carlos III Health Institute in Madrid.
‘The patient has been quarantined and is under the care of health workers.’
The highly contagious bug has manifested itself in every continent except South America and Antarctica.
An acceleration of cases in other parts of the world has prompted similar drastic action to prevent the spread.
Italy has locked down 11 towns and South Korea ordered the entire 2.5 million residents of the city of Daegu to remain indoors.
The spread of the disease – officially known as COVID-19 – continued unabated with Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman announcing their first cases on Monday.
Iran has reported 12 deaths, but Tehran MP Ahmad Amiriabadi Farahani suggested the regime was suppressing the true figure.
Yet Dr Adhanom today refused to confirm the coronavirus crisis was yet to reach at pandemic levels.
After a spike in diagnoses, he said: ‘The sudden increase in new cases is certainly very concerning.
‘There is lots of speculation about whether this outbreak has now become a pandemic.
‘For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus and we’re not witnessing large scale disease or deaths.’
His comments came after the WHO admitted the killer outbreak will never be officially declared a pandemic.
Instead, the UN-body said the crisis has already been a public health emergency of international concern – the highest warning level – for a month.
But fears of a pandemic are mounting, with a surge in cases taking the world close to the ‘tipping point’ with 80,000 confirmed cases and 2,600 deaths.
The body, headquartered in Geneva in Switzerland, argues a pathogen must spread easily between humans across the world before it is called a pandemic.
The WHO said the current crisis is a cluster of cases in 36 countries and territories, which can be traced back to Asia.