A tourist in a protective mask takes a selfie in the Piazza del Duomo, Milan Image copyright AFP
Image caption Cases of the coronavirus in Italy rose from three to 229 in four days

Britons returning from northern Italy are being told to self-isolate in the UK if they show coronavirus symptoms.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said people with flu-like symptoms coming back from north of Pisa are asked to stay at home for 14 days.

The advice also applies to anyone who recently returned from Italy’s quarantined towns even if they have no symptoms, he said.

Italy has put several towns in Lombardy and Veneto into lockdown.

Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast that “those who have been to northern Italy – north of Pisa – if they have flu-like symptoms should self-isolate”.

He added: “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.”

Mr Hancock said he was not aware of any British citizens currently in the Italian quarantine area, where 50,000 residents have been told they cannot leave for two weeks without special permission.

But he said if any UK citizens are in the lockdown towns, they should contact the embassy in Rome.

The change in advice means that the Italian towns under containment measures are now in the same category as Wuhan in China, where the coronavirus outbreak began.

Northern Italy joins Asian countries such as Japan and Singapore in the category of countries where travellers are advised to self-isolate and call NHS 111 if they develop symptoms.

The NHS says the symptoms of Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, are a cough, a high temperature and shortness of breath – but they could also indicate other common illnesses such as a cold or flu.

Approximately three million British nationals visit Italy every year, where coronavirus cases rose from three to 229 over four days.

Mr Hancock said the travel advice to Italy has not changed. He said there were no plans to stop flights, after experts advised it would be ineffective.

“If you look at Italy, they stopped all flights from China and they’re now the worst affected country in Europe,” he said.

‘We expect more cases’

After the World Health Organization warned that countries should do more to prepare for a possible pandemic, the health secretary said that the UK had already done “a huge amount of work”.

“Once it gets to that point there isn’t a way to stop it coming into the UK in a big way,” he said.

“It is not yet clear that it will become a pandemic – the number of cases in China has been slowing over the last couple of weeks and we are relatively confident that information is correct.”

He said if other countries where the number of cases are growing “get their response right”, there is still the possibility that the outbreak will remain small in the UK.

Mr Hancock said: “We still expect more cases but at the moment there are 13 cases in the UK.”

The latest cases in the UK were four passengers who returned from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which had been quarantined in Japan.

They were among 30 Britons and two Irish citizens who arrived at Arrowe Park Hospital for two weeks of isolation on Saturday.


How has coronavirus affected your trip in Italy? Have you recently returned from one of Italy’s quarantined towns? If so, get in touch by emailing .

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